Polsinelli’s sports attorneys represent a wide variety of the “players” in the professional and amateur sports arena.  Recognizing the sports industry as unique, complex and ever-evolving, we have assembled a team of attorneys with a wide variety of areas of legal expertise and experience to bring an integrated approach to help our clients achieve their goals.  And while some firms may concentrate on a particular service within the sports industry, Polsinelli’s national sports practice draws from multidisciplinary areas, including:

  • Media Rights and other Commercial Transactions
  • Private Equity, Mergers & Acquisitions and other investments
  • Antitrust, Commercial, Class Action and Multidistrict Litigation
  • Corporate Governance
  • Government and Internal Investigations
  • Real Estate and Sports Facility Finance
  • Licensing, Trademark, Copyright and other Intellectual Property-related transactions
  • Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation
  • Public Policy
  • College athletic conference realignment

We serve a broad spectrum of clients across sports industry verticals including:

  • Collegiate and amateur conferences, athletic departments and associations
  • Professional teams, franchises, leagues and their owners
  • Facilities operators, including stadiums, other sports-related facilities and their investment activities
  • Private equity firms, strategic buyers, and target companies across a range of industries, including traditional sports, eSports, entertainment, retail, media, and technology in the structuring and negotiations of mergers, acquisitions, dispositions, carve-outs and leveraged buyouts
  • Public and private companies in connection with team sponsorships, athletic event and venue partnerships, individual endorsement relationships and technology licensing
  • Sports equipment manufacturers, retail brands, apparel companies, athletic event operators, sports television broadcast networks, multimedia rights organizations and sports technology entities
  • Professional and amateur coaches, broadcasters, athletic administrators and sports executives 

Our sports attorneys have handled an array of various types of matters including:

  • Advising professional sports and eSports leagues, franchises and teams regarding strategic relationships with corporate sponsors, stadium, arena and facility naming rights-holders, franchise owners, media broadcasters, sports gambling partners and third-party venue users such as concert operators, college bowl games and soccer matches
  • Negotiating the sale of equity stakes in professional sports and eSports leagues to private equity, venture capital and strategic investors
  • Representing sellers of aggregated media rights, such as collegiate, high school, and other amateur sports organizations, in multibillion-dollar media transactions while taking advantage of the emerging digital media distribution landscape
  • Leading the defense of conferences and other organizations in massive complex class action litigation, arbitration and mediation, including antitrust, name, image and likeness, concussion personal injury, conference membership composition and realignment and other “bet the industry” legal challenges
  • Counseling national-level sports organizations on government and construction incentives in relation to stadium development
  • Advising broadcast companies in the acquisition of media content
  • Representing collegiate sports organizations in handling the negotiation of their television, media and sponsorship contracts
  • Structuring the protection and strategic licensing programs related to trademarks and other intellectual property
  • Conducting internal investigations for sports-related organizations, both prospectively and following alleged wrongdoing
  • Counseling sports organization on risk mitigation strategies relating to antitrust, anticorruption, data privacy, FLSA, NLRB, labor and employment issues

Corporate and Transactional, Venture Capital, and Private Equity 

  • Advised private equity client in connection with its $4+ billion bid to purchase a mixed martial arts organization
  • Represented strategic buyer regarding its multibillion bid to acquire a multimedia rights entity
  • Counseled foreign investor with respect to its proposed acquisition of adventure race company
  • Formation (including operating, venue, media rights and sponsorship agreements) of four postseason Collegiate Football Bowl games and sale of three to a national media company
  • Represented eSports team with respect to its partnership with and sale to a National Hockey League Team
  • Advised National Football League team in connection with its first-of-its-kind sports betting relationship
  • Counseled Major League Baseball, National Football League and National Basketball Association owners regarding the purchase and sale of franchise equity stakes
  • Led strategic representation of collegiate conferences in membership realignment and expansion developments (including negotiation and mediation of the transition of more than 20 universities’ conference memberships) and development of defenses to respond to future realignment initiatives
  • Negotiation of venue, sponsorship, game and other agreements relating to championship sporting events
  • Advised National Football League team with respect to COVID preparedness concerning personnel and fan attendance
  • Counseled a National Football League team in connection with its trademark licensing and joint partnership with an athlete and a leading consumer goods company
  • Represented English Premier League team with respect to cutting-edge virtual reality licensing transaction

Complex Litigation and Dispute Resolution

  • Managed strategic litigation of significant class action matters, including antitrust litigation over CFA and NCAA rules, the NCAA v Board of Regents, Law, O’Bannon, Marshall, Arrington, Alston, Jenkins, and the “Same Sport/Same School” Concussion litigation
  • Successfully represented sports media rights holder as lead counsel in a six-day arbitration against broadcaster regarding a contract dispute
  • Successfully defended collegiate conference in class action brought by former-student athletes seeking damages for the use of their name, image and likeness as claims were dismissed and the dismissal was upheld on appeal
  • Successfully resolved a mediated contract dispute between a collegiate conference and a major media distribution company with respect to a contractual future rights clause
  • Assisted in the successful defense of an antitrust claim against the National Federation of State High School Associations and the National Collegiate Athletic Association made by a baseball bat manufacturer alleging Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution restrained trade in the non-wood bat market. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a unanimous opinion affirming the antitrust claims’ dismissal, reaffirming the National Federation of State High School Association’s role in setting rules for high school competition.

 Linear and Digital Media Rights Agreements

  • Structured and negotiated television rights content acquisition from collegiate sports league on behalf of regional sports network
  • Negotiation of numerous complex multimedia rights agreements with ESPN/ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, Turner Sports, Facebook, Stadium and Twitter for collegiate sports content for various collegiate conferences and other content holders, spanning decades and representing billions of dollars of license fee revenues
  • Formation and negotiation of complex operating and venture capital financial structure of first national internet distribution outlet for championship high school sports content on a nationwide basis
  • Represented licensors of live sports content in the ongoing transition from the traditional “wired” distribution models to the increasingly internet-based “digital” distribution alternatives

 Sports Regulatory

  • Represent coaches association in connection with recommended modifications to the National Basketball Association draft procedures and positions on NCAA legislation regarding agent regulation, eligibility, amateurism, recruiting, apparel company agreements, name, image and likeness, and infractions
  • Advise Collegiate Conferences regarding numerous modifications to NCAA and Conference regulatory structures


  • Draft and negotiate employment, sponsorship, endorsement and speaking engagement agreements for coaches, broadcasters, administrators and executives in collegiate athletics, the National Basketball Association and the National Football League
  • Coordination with national executive search firms regarding searches for major sports executives, conference commissioners, athletic directors and coaches. Negotiation of numerous employment relationships and agreements with respect to structuring and documentation of complex deferred compensation agreements
  • Provide defensive and strategic legal and public policy advice to clients on application of FLSA and NLRA to amateur sports teams
  • Special counsel to Division I university president in response to Department of Education Office for Civil Rights Dear Colleague Letter working with University committee to review and revise the university’s Title IX compliance programs
  • Represent National Football League team in collective bargaining
  • Represent National Football League team in general employment and labor issues
  • Advise National Basketball Association team in negotiations with head coach
  • Advise Major League Baseball team with respect to benefits issues

Public Policy 

  • Lead strategic initiatives on managing and lobbying on state public policy issues involving sports, including tax credits, social legislation (LGBTQ facility access issues, gun laws in sports facilities), sport gambling, and sports facility financing and incentives
  • Developed federal public policy strategy for national collegiate sports legislation 
  • Represent sports equipment clients regarding federal legislative initiatives