For the past thirty years, Williams & Connolly LLP has represented clients involved in virtually every aspect of the business of sports. Dating back to when the firm's founder, Edward Bennett Williams, owned the Washington Redskins and Baltimore Orioles, we have represented numerous athletes, owners, and others involved in the business of sports. They have come to us for general business advice and representation, for assistance in negotiating contracts, leases, and league structures, for specific advice on how to structure their businesses to avoid controversy, and to represent them in major litigation/arbitration disputes. Our experience includes radio, television, and cable broadcast agreements; stadium leases; stadium construction agreements; advertising and sponsorship agreements; and player arbitration.
Today, the firm's practice covers a number of different areas of sports law.
Sports Controversies, Business Planning, and Transactions
We focus on a broad and varying array of legal areas and business issues involving individual athletes, teams, and their owners in a wide variety of sports. Our representation can involve anything from major litigation ending in trials or contested arbitrations, to substantial counseling concerning business issues, to negotiation of business deals and substantial corporate transactions.
This multi-dimensional facet of the firm's sports practice involves representation of people and businesses in many different aspects of the business. In this area, Williams & Connolly LLP represents amateur, Olympic, and professional athletes; players' associations/unions; sports teams, owners of professional teams, leagues and league properties organizations; sports associations; national governing bodies; sport sponsors; universities; college and professional coaches; sports agents; sports management companies and sports event producers; owners of sports facilities; and boxing managers and promoters.
This practice focuses on the legal areas and business issues that are common to many different sports. We have been involved in matters concerning professional baseball, basketball, boxing, fast pitch softball, football, golf, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, and volleyball, and several amateur, collegiate, and Olympic sports (such as bobsled, boxing, skiing, swimming, and track and field).
The firm's experience covers legal issues that include: antitrust; contracts, corporate law and the law of partnerships and limited liability companies; real estate; estate planning and tax law; franchise law; intellectual property; internet issues; labor law, constitutional law, criminal law, RICO, unfair competition and various other common law torts; and matters arising under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, and state laws governing sports agent registration.
The types of sports-related matters for which individuals and businesses come to Williams & Connolly include:
- Disputes between owners of major and minor league professional teams and the league or owners of facilities where the teams play their games.
- Disputes between owners of sports facilities and the teams, leagues and event producers that hold events in their facilities.
- Disputes between event producers and circuits of events, such as the ATP or PGA Tour.
- Disputes between athletes and their teams, sponsors, licensees, leagues, circuits of events, and international and national governing bodies, such as the United States Olympic Committee.
- Disputes concerning the right of athletes to participate in international competitions.
- The launch of new professional sports leagues or circuits of events.
- Efforts by groups of athletes to promote themselves collectively, or to further their position as a group in disputes, or cooperative activity, with the teams and sports businesses that employ them.
- Contract negotiations, contractual disputes, and other business matters for professional, collegiate and Olympic coaches.
- Advice concerning sponsorship and licensing having to do with athletes, sports organizations, and other businesses involved in sports.
- Negotiation of agreements with college coaches and other sports personnel related to the rules and regulations of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
- The sale or acquisition of major league and minor league sports teams and franchises.
- Negotiation of radio, television, and cable contracts for professional and collegiate sports teams.
- Stadium and arena development, planning, construction, and leasing.
Current and former clients include: Andre Agassi, the Arena Football League Players Association, the Baltimore Orioles, USA Volleyball Coach Doug Beal, Olympic Aerial Freestyle Skier Stacey Blumer, Norman Braman, Coach John Calipari, CBS Sportsline USA, Inc., United States Bobsledders Jen Davidson and Jean Racine, Ericsson Telecommunications, Norman "Boomer" Esiason, Patrick Ewing, United States swimmer Jessica Foschi, Coach Fran Fraschilla, Nancy Kerrigan, Victor Kiam, II, Don King, Maryland Baseball, LLC, the National Lacrosse League, NFL Quarterback Club, Inc., Nike, Inc., the Philadelphia Eagles, Pro Elite, Inc., ProServ, Inc., Pro Set, Patrick Rafter, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, Gabriella Sabatini, the San Diego Padres, the St. Louis Rams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the United States National Soccer Team Players Association, the United States Pro Volleyball League, the Upper Deck Company, the United States Volleyball Association, the Washington Redskins, and Women's Professional Fastpitch.
A firm partner has co-authored one of the leading sports law casebooks, and several attorneys in this firm have taught sports law classes as adjunct professors at Catholic, George Washington, and Georgetown law schools, as well as making speeches and presentations on the subject nationwide.
The professional athletes we represent rely on us to negotiate player and marketing contracts, to structure their business relationships, and to counsel them on all aspects of their professional careers. In representing these sports figures in player and contract negotiations, licensing negotiations, business structuring, and other matters, we provide the same services as are provided by traditional sports agents, but charge on an hourly-fee basis rather than a straight percentage-of-income basis.
The professional athletes we represent rely on us to perform several important functions:
- Negotiating player contracts - We have extensive experience in negotiating these agreements (both in the U.S. and for athletes playing in leagues overseas), the primary and most important source of income for most athletes. In addition, we advise athletes on team relationships with coaches, the front office, and the public relations and marketing staff.
- Negotiating marketing contracts - While endorsements and product licensing agreements can be lucrative, we place special emphasis on developing realistic marketing plans that enhance athletes' opportunities and build their reputations in their communities and throughout the nation.
- Creating business opportunities - We help plan for when playing days are over, providing legal advice on day-to-day needs and helping athletes become wise and independent decision-makers in their future business lives.
In representing sports figures in player and contract negotiations, licensing negotiations, business structuring, and other matters, the firm's attorneys offer a key advantage: they provide the same services as traditional sports agents, but charge on an hourly-fee basis rather than a straight percentage-of-income basis. This important difference can save hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars over the course of a professional athlete's career.
Our sports practice is distinguished by the quality and character of our clients and by the principled way we represent them. Among the professional athletes we represent are Grant Hill, Tim Duncan, Shane Battier, Chris Young, Ross Ohlendorf, Marvin Williams, Chamique Holdsclaw, and Nikki McCray.