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Sports & Esports Year in Review

In 2023, our multidisciplinary team counseled clients on a wide variety of complex matters across the sports and esports landscapes.

The interplay between live sports and technology continued to reach new heights, offering more interactive opportunities—through games, social media, sports betting and enhanced broadcasting opportunities—for fans to engage with their favorite teams within and beyond the stadium. While still relatively new territory, name, image and likeness (NIL) deals in collegiate sports experienced explosive growth, with athletes capitalizing on their personal brands. From financial institutions to food and beverage corporations, we witnessed major players across industries engage in strategic sponsorships to tap into the strength of the sports universe. 

This past year, we were privileged to continue working with the Buffalo Bills to develop a new, state-of-the-art football stadium. In celebration of being the longest-standing sponsor of the San Antonio Spurs, our client Frost Bank marked the milestone by securing naming rights for the team’s home stadium, now proudly known as the Frost Bank Center. In addition, our team assisted MSP Sports Capital in the negotiation of media rights and acquiring a majority stake in X Games from ESPN. We also supported basketball superstar Dwyane Wade in connection with an ownership stake in the WNBA team the Chicago Sky.

We had the honor of representing U.S. Women’s National Team soccer players Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osborne, Danielle Slaton and Aly Wagner in the formation of Bay FC—a groundbreaking National Women’s Soccer League franchise in the San Francisco Bay Area.

We didn’t stop there … read on to see even more highlights from our work in 2023. These highlights reflect the commitment of our dedicated team of dealmakers and litigators to supporting clients across all facets of the sports industry.

2023 Representations

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 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 Nexstar Media Group and the CW Network in the acquisition of live sports programming rights, including ACC football and basketball, and the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
  • Represented a popular social media network in connection with sponsorship agreements with the National Hockey League, Toronto Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Football Club, Toronto Argonauts, NFL Canada, PUMA, Bristol Motor Speedway and Ryan Reynolds. 
  • Represented Viii Sports in connection with an agreement with ESPN for the broadcast of Viii Sports Invitational on ESPN’s “The Ocho.”

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 basketball superstar Dwyane Wade in connection with his ownership stake in the WNBA team the Chicago Sky.
  • Represented former U.S. Women’s National Team soccer players Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osborne, Danielle Slaton and Aly Wagner in connection with ownership and ambassador agreements for Bay FC, a new National Women’s Soccer League franchise in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Technology and Innovation

  • Represented Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization, in various counseling and transactional matters, including, among other programs, its cryptocurrency and non-fungible token (NFT) matters, in particular, the launch of its NFT collectible product, UFC Strike.
  • Represented EDGE10 Group in technology license agreements with professional sports teams, leagues and equipment brands.

NIL Matters Involving College Athletes 

  • Represented Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams and other well-known college athletes in NIL matters.
  • Represented Smith & Co., a sports public relations firm, in connection with its NIL practice working with high-profile college athletes. Because the NIL area is so new, our counseling helps Smith & Co. understand the legal landscape for NIL matters.
  • Represented Cav Futures, a collective providing an inclusive marketplace for University of Virginia student-athletes to capitalize on their NIL.
  • Represented Range Media Partners, a provider of management and representation services for professional athletes, in connection with media and NIL agreements.

Marketing, Sponsorships and Endorsements 

  • Represented Frost Bank in connection with its naming rights partnership for the San Antonio Spurs’ home arena.
  • Represented Simmons Bank for title sponsorship of Simmons Bank Championship, a PGA Tour Champions event (professional golf).
  • Represented a worldwide fast-food chain in negotiating sponsorships for the FIFA World Cup, which includes both the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ and the FIFA World Cup 2026™. 
  • Represented a telecommunications company in negotiating a variety of sports marketing deals, including sponsorship and marketing agreements with Major League Baseball and the PGA of America; a sponsorship and marketing agreement with Little League Baseball; a sponsorship agreement with Las Vegas Grand Prix for the F1 Race; and a strategic partnership agreement with Univision for Liga MX sponsorship rights. 
  • 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 a digital payment technology world leader with negotiating a multiyear title sponsorship with Scuderia Alpha Tauri Formula One Racing Team and sponsorship of Oracle Red Bull Racing Formula One Racing Team. 
  • Represented the Miami HEAT with launching the team’s influencer program and provided strategic advice regarding HEAT Rewards, the team’s loyalty program.
  • Represented the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Fire in connection with marketing and compliance related to their season ticket programs.
  • Represented the San Diego Wave FC in the negotiation of its kit sponsorship agreement with Kaiser Permanente.
  • Represented Hydrow, DraftKings, Planet Fitness, Churchill Downs, Whoop! and Genesco Sports.

Professional Athlete Representation 

  • Represented numerous professional athletes—including Dwyane Wade, Reggie Bush, JJ Redick, Christian McCaffrey, Kenny Pickett, Tony Gonzalez, John Wall, Calvin Ridley, Julius Randle, Allen Crabbe, Coby White, Gabby Douglas, Andy Roddick, Ephraim Salaam, Brandon Wu and Dee Gordon—in endorsement deals, commercial transactions and investments, and general corporate advice.
  • Represented iconic content creator, professional gamer and streaming superstar Tyler “Ninja” Blevins in joining the gaming and esports company GameSquare as its Chief Innovation Officer.
  • Represented NBA player Chet Holmgren in connection with his Nike shoe deal. 
  • Represented Derrick Rose in intellectual property protection and business endeavors.
  • Represented Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Thomas in the sale of 404 Spirits to Sneaky Spirits.
  • Represented LPGA golfer Rose Zhang in connection with agency and sponsorship matters.

Estate, Tax and Charitable Planning

  • Represented professional athletes in estate planning and charitable foundation matters.

Brand Protection and Intellectual Property Licensing and Enforcement

  • Represented Vanessa Bryant and Kobe Inc. in connection with a lawsuit brought by a former Kobe Inc. executive claiming that before his passing, Kobe Bryant promised the claimant an equity interest in Bryant’s $400 million interest in BodyArmor.
  • Represented the NCAA in connection with various intellectual property matters.
  • Represented Peak Achievement Athletics, a sports equipment manufacturer and parent organization to Bauer Hockey, in connection with advertising and intellectual property.

Privacy- and Data-Related Transactions

  • Represented Bauer Hockey and Maverik Lacrosse in connection with state and federal privacy compliance and advised on privacy policies, rights requests and data uses for marketing and advertising purposes.
  • Represented Callaway Golf in connection with email and text message marketing compliance.
  • Represented Burton Snowboards in connection with state and federal privacy compliance.
  • Represented Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment in connection with its submission of a Paris 2024 Olympic bid and advised on privacy and data security practices to respond to the Olympic Committee’s vetting requests.