- Sports

About Sports Lawyers And The Law

Sports lawyers need to be highly experienced practitioners of general law. Except for athlete-agent statutes in many states, there are virtually no laws specifically governing sporting events, organizations and the competitors. Attorneys representing athletes and other involved parties have to work on general law areas such as contracts and intellectual property rights.

The sporting world plays by different rules when it comes to the legal arena. Players in contact sports such as football, hockey and basketball cannot easily be held liable for injuring a player in the opposing team during the game. Similarly, anti-trust law is put aside to give a single organization all the controlling rights for managing a sport.

The club and stadium owners are still liable under tort law and other general practice laws. Spectators who get injured or suffer property damage may file personal injury lawsuits. There can be financial or real estate disputes between the stadium owners and vendors. Workers at the stadium may file workers’ compensation claims, discrimination or wrongful termination lawsuits, and so on.

Attorneys representing the club and stadium owners are charged with handling all this in addition to the sporting aspects. They will need to draw up contracts upholding the rights of all parties involved, including the club and the players, managers, coaches and trainers. Attorneys must be intimately familiar with the inner workings of the sport, its financial aspects and the insurance required. They have to be able to follow up with legal action if there is a breach of contract.

Safeguarding the intellectual property rights of their client is another big practice area for sports lawyers. All sporting clubs and personalities have a brand to protect. The attorney has to ensure no one infringes on the brand and trademark. By the same token, they may have to get involved in licensing negotiations with licensees interested in using the brand for marketing purposes.

A relatively new development is the possibility of personal injury and disability claim lawsuits filed by athletes against their own club. Lawsuits have been filed by retired players who allege the club let them play despite knowing the extended periods of training and repeated injuries would cause long-term mental and physical disabilities. These lawsuits are still being argued in court and the case law is far from settled.

If the athlete is a minor, then legal issues often overlap with family law and may end up in the juvenile justice system. Another major practice area for sports lawyers is the legal relationship between athletes and their agents. The Uniform Athlete Agents Act (UAAA) passed by 40 states and Washington DC ensures that all agents are licensed by the state. Three other states have a different non-UAAA law in place for athlete agents.