Sports & Esports Year in Review
USA (February 28, 2023) — When it comes to Sports and Esports, our dedicated team of litigators and dealmakers touches every corner of sports and gaming law, staying at the cutting edge of new trends and monumental developments.
2022 was marked by some significant shifts, resurgences and developments in the sporting universe, and our responsive team skillfully navigated and frequently led the way for change. We saw live sports making a comeback and stadiums once again packed with fans, and we witnessed increased participation in the metaverse and virtual gaming and the unprecedented rise of professional gamers and streaming superstars, supported by advances in immersive 3D technology and live-streaming. For the first time ever, we saw regulatory changes allowing college athletes to cash in on their popularity and profit from their name, image and likeness (NIL), opening up the same opportunities that professional athletes have always had. This changing universe and its participants—athletes, teams, leagues, owners, brands and investors—need a legal team at the very top of the league.
Our multidisciplinary team has been busy participating in the kickoff for the new Buffalo Bills stadium by advising on the development, financing, construction and a one-of-its-kind 30-year stadium lease agreement. We had the privilege of extending hearty congratulations to our client and outstanding college football star Caleb Williams on winning the prestigious Heisman Trophy. We partnered with our client Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, a professional gamer and streaming superstar, on his return to the game-focused live-streaming platform. In all, we feel incredibly proud to have partnered with clients from all aspects of the industry and to be part of this changing landscape.
We are once again pleased to share our extensive year in review, highlighting some of our top representations for 2022, spanning a broad mix of clients as they forged new partnerships, explored new ventures, adopted new technologies, grew their brands and ushered in a new era in sports and gaming.
Stadiums and Arenas
- Represented the National Football League (NFL) team the Buffalo Bills in negotiations with New York state, Erie County and the NFL in connection with the development, financing and construction of a new football stadium.
- Represented Angels Baseball LP and SRB Management Company LLC in the acquisition from the city of Anaheim of Angel Stadium and its surrounding 152 acres, as well as the master planning of the purchased property for development and negotiation of a non-relocation agreement.
- Represented an NFL franchise in connection with the preliminary plans to build a multisport, state-of-the-art, multiuse hotel, retail and practice facility.
Broadcast and New Media Licensing and Integrations
- Represented the Association of Pickleball Professionals with respect to national media rights for events and tournaments.
- Represented a popular social media network in connection with sponsorship agreements with the NHL), Toronto Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Football Club, Toronto Argonauts, NHL Canada and Ryan Reynolds.
- Represented Kay Adams, an American sportscaster/sports commentator, on securing her new flagship daily morning show Up and Adams on FanDuel TV.
- Represented the CW Network in connection with the licensing of media rights for LIV Golf.
- Represented the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) regarding expanding its digital rights platform to supplement its linear television media rights with ESPN.
Technology and Innovation
- Represented Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), VaynerSports, the Professional Bull Riders Association, Daniil Medvedev and other professional tennis players in non-fungible tokens (NFT) matters.
- Represented Parsons Xtreme Golf, a global sports equipment manufacturing company that designs, markets and sells a line of custom-fitted golf equipment products and accessories, in connection with various commercial and corporate matters both domestically and internationally.
- Represented EDGE10 Group in technology license agreements with professional sports teams, leagues and equipment brands.
- Represented StatStak Inc. in its data collection and distribution agreements for high school athletes, particularly baseball players.
NIL Matters Involving College Athletes
- Represented Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams and other well-known college athletes in NIL matters.
- Represented Peak Achievement Athletics, a sports equipment manufacturer, in NIL and contractual matters.
- Represented Cav Futures, a NIL collective for the University of Virginia student-athletes.
Marketing, Sponsorships and Endorsements
- Represented Simmons Bank in naming rights deals for a variety of college and professional sports stadiums and arenas and in their sponsorship of college athletic programs at 11 different universities.
- Represented Ninja in a sponsorship deal with G FUEL and in his agreement with MasterClass to develop, host and teach an online course on the platform.
- Represented a national broadband provider and a telecommunications provider in sponsorship agreements on behalf of a variety of professional sports leagues, universities and tournaments.
- Represented various premier, international financial institutions in sponsorship agreements with entities such as the University of Notre Dame and the McLaren Racing Formula One team.
- Represented Callaway Golf, the Miami Heat, Hydrow, DraftKings, Planet Fitness, Churchill Downs, Whoop! and Genesco Sports in a variety of advertising and marketing matters.
Litigation and Dispute Resolution
- Represented Zion Williamson and Creative Artists Agency (CAA) in parallel litigations stemming from Williamson’s termination of a former marketing agent and CAA’s subsequent representation of Williamson. Secured a declaratory judgment that the contract between Williamson and the former marketing agent is void, and secured summary judgment in Williamson’s favor as to all of the former agent’s counterclaims. Currently litigating related claims against CAA pending in the second-filed litigation.
- Represented the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the opposition to the registration of the mark “MAD IQ Basketball Board Game” as part of protecting the NCAA’s rights in protecting its March Madness brand. The applicant agreed to narrow its registration to exclude college basketball and related sports and not interfere with the NCAA’s use of its marks.
Professional Athlete Representation
- Represented numerous professional athletes, including John Wall, Allen Crabbe, Ephraim Salaam, Tony Gonzalez, Reggie Bush, Dwyane Wade, Julius Randle, Udonis Haslem, Jessica Pegula, Brandon Wu, Cassidy Jarrell and Dee Gordon, in endorsement deals, commercial transactions and investments, and general corporate advice.
- Represented American professional basketball player Chet Holmgren in a variety of sophisticated sponsorship and endorsement deals with brands—including Philips Norelco, Ethika, Google Pixel and Neiman Marcus—and represented Holmgren in connection with a suite of promotional endorsements for the 2022 National Basketball Association (NBA) draft.
- Represented Derrick Rose in intellectual property protection and business endeavours.
Team Acquisitions, Dispositions and Ownership Bids
- Represented MSP Sports Capital in the negotiation of media rights and acquisition of a majority stake in X Games from ESPN.
- Represented a prospective purchaser of an NBA franchise.
Labor and Employment
- Designed and delivered numerous anti-harassment/nondiscrimination/respect in the workplace training for several professional sports leagues and member clubs throughout the United States.
Estate, Tax and Charitable Planning
- Represented Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams in connection with the Caleb Cares Foundation.
- Represented John Wall in connection with the John Wall Family Foundation’s partnership with Washington, D.C., to launch the 202 Assist program.
- Represented professional athletes in estate planning and charitable foundation matters.