For the past forty years, Williams & Connolly has represented clients involved in virtually every aspect of the business of sports. The firm’s sports legacy reaches back to the late 1960s, when firm founder Edward Bennett Williams took over the running of the Washington Redskins and, a decade later, became owner of the Baltimore Orioles. Clients have come to the firm for general business advice and representation, for assistance in negotiating contracts, leases, and league structures, and for specific advice on setting up and operating businesses in the sports industry in general and in specific sports leagues and circuits of events in particular. The primary reason those in the sports industry have come to the firm in recent years has been for representation in major litigation and arbitration disputes. We also handle radio, television, and cable broadcast agreements, stadium leases and stadium construction agreements, advertising and sponsorship agreements, collective bargaining agreements and player arbitration.
Our partners are also active in the field outside the firm. Senior partner Mark Levinstein is co-author of one of the leading sports law casebooks, has taught sports law classes as an adjunct professor at The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, the George Washington University National Law Center, the Georgetown University Law Center, the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, and the University of Virginia School of Law; he is a regular speaker on sports law issues at conferences and symposiums on a nationwide basis; and he is the Founder and Chair of Athletes for Hope, one of the leading multi-sport sports philanthropy public charities in the United States.
Today, the firm's practice covers a number of different areas of sports law.
We focus on an array of legal areas and business issues involving athletes and sports-related businesses in a variety of sports. Our controversy-related representation involves everything from negotiating contracts to handling contract disputes, from major litigation ending in trials to contested arbitrations, from mediation to negotiation to avoid litigation, to strikes and lockouts and unfair labor practice charges in labor disputes.
The firm’s multi-dimensional representation includes amateur, Olympic, and professional athletes, players' associations and unions, sports teams and their owners, leagues and organizations of league properties, sports associations, national Olympic committees, national governing bodies, sport sponsors and licensees, universities, college and professional coaches and executives, sports agents, sports management companies and producers of sports events, youth sports organizations, owners of sports facilities and boxing managers and promoters. We have been involved in matters concerning professional baseball, basketball, boxing, fast pitch softball, football, golf, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, and volleyball, and multiple amateur, collegiate, and Olympic sports, such as bobsled, boxing, cycling, equestrian sports, fencing, figure skating, gymnastics, sailing, skiing, swimming, taekwondo, track and field, and wrestling.
Sports Business Planning and Transactions
As a result of our sports industry experience, start-up leagues and circuits, teams, team owners, sponsors and others sports organizations and businesses have come to the firm for business counseling, contract negotiations, collective bargaining and deals that have included substantial corporate transactions. Please also refer to a description of the firm's representation of sports organizations in transactional sports matters under Transactions and Business Counseling.
Diverse Legal Subject Matter as Applied to the Business of Sports
Our firm-wide experience includes many areas that are applicable to our sports practice, including antitrust, contracts, corporate law, 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 other common law torts. In addition, our lawyers also provide guidance and counsel on the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 and 1966, federal laws concerning gambling, sports gambling and sports lotteries, and state laws governing sports agent registration.