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By far the best in the business, with unmatched industry knowledge and depth of relationships’, Proskauer Rose LLP provides a ‘phenomenal’ service to all of the ‘big four’ leagues. Joseph Leccese (‘one of the best known and well respected in the business’) and Jon Oram (‘talented, creative and dedicated’) advised the National Hockey League (NHL) on its $500m deal with a Bill Foley-led consortium to create a team in Las Vegas. Leccese also advised KKR on its role in the WME IMG-led $4bn purchase of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). In the disputes space, Bradley Ruskin represented the NHL in litigation, which settled, against the former owner of the Arizona Coyotes concerning the club’s insolvency procedure and a proposed unauthorized sale to a buyer seeking to relocate the franchise to Hamilton, Ontario. Other clients include the exploratory committee for Los Angeles’ 2024 Olympic bid and Nascar, which the firm advised on its transition to a quasi-franchise ‘charter’ model. Howard Ganz handles big-ticket labor matters. The above named ‘responsive and efficient’ attorneys are all are based in New York.

Covington & Burling LLP has a long track record in the sports area and a particularly well-known relationship with the National Football League (NFL). In 2016, Douglas Gibson headed a team that advised the client on its sale of Thursday Night Football rights to CBS and NBC, while in a disputes context Benjamin Razi secured a victory for the league in a disability discrimination claim brought by a 2013 Pro Bowl ticketholder. Outside of football, Derek Ludwin represented the US Olympic Committee in an antitrust claim regarding a prohibition on non-kit sponsorship logos appearing during US Olympic trials brought by a chewing gum manufacturer and an athlete it sponsors. Peter Zern advised Turner Sports on its purchase of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s basketball tournament broadcast rights.

Latham & Watkins LLP’s work includes strategically significant transactions and complex litigation, with a particular strength in soccer. In the Century City office, Joseph Calabrese and Christopher Brearton advised the International Olympic Committee on negotiations with NBC to create a dedicated over-the-top Olympic Channel in the US, while in New York, Stephen Amdur advised DraftKings on its partnerships with Fox and ESPN. In Los Angeles, Russell Sauer handles litigation for US Soccer and had successes in disputes with the US men’s and women’s senior teams concerning image rights and a collective bargaining agreement respectively, as well as in a settled class action case concerning concussions in youth soccer. David Barrett and Christian Word in Washington DC and Mark Mester in Chicago represent the NCAA in litigation brought by former student athletes concerning brain injuries.

Outstanding’ firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP’s ‘top-notch’ team handles heading-grabbing litigation and deals. Brad Karp led a team including Bruce Birenboim and Theodore Wells that represented the NFL in the main concussion MDL, which concluded with the denial of certiorari by the Supreme Court to a challenge to the settlement’s approval. Karp and Birenboim also secured the exclusion of Fifa from a case concerning head injuries in youth soccer - which is continuing against other defendants - on jurisdictional grounds. Joe Simons and Daniel Toal represented Major League Baseball (MLB) in a settled antitrust case brought by claimants who alleged that MLB Extra Innings and MLB.tv violate the Sherman Act by stopping teams broadcasting games themselves. Justin Hamill and Lynn Bayard advised WME IMG on its purchase of the UFC. The team is located in New York.

Governing bodies entrust Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP with a range of strategic litigation. Jeffrey Mishkin and Anthony Dreyer represent the ‘big four’ leagues as well as the NCAA, on behalf of which, at the Third Circuit, in Christie v NCAA et al, they secured an affirmance of a summary judgment and a permanent injunction against New Jersey’s attempts to repeal prohibitions on certain types of sports betting, in violation of federal law. The same two, along with Karen Hoffman Lent, successfully defended the National Basketball Association (NBA) in a case brought by former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Stirling, who was banned from the sport and mandated to sell the club following the release of recordings of him making racist comments. Shepard Goldfein, James Keyte and Matthew Martino also act as lead counsel to the NHL in an ongoing MDL brought by former players concerning brain injuries. Other clients include the PGA Tour. The above named lawyers are based in New York.

Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP’s New York-based team handles a range of disputes and litigation for athletes, broadcasters and investors. The firm has a strength in athlete union representation, with clients including the nascent and as-yet unrecognized Mixed Martial Arts Athletes Association and the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA). James Quinn represented Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman in arbitration, halving a 20-game ban for colliding with a referee while concussed. In addition, Quinn and Eric Hochstadt represent former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre in litigation against the mixed martial arts (MMA) promoter regarding his contractual status. Jeffrey Klein represented MasterCard, which was dropped as a defendant from a RICO class-action claim brought by daily fantasy sports gamblers. Transactions included Michael Lubowitz advising Delta Topco, the parent company of Formula One, on its sale by CVC Capital Partners to Liberty Media, while Quinn and Yehudah Buchweitz represented CBS in cases brought by former NCAA student athletes seeking payments for image rights. Bruce Meyer is now in-house at the NHLPA.

Arent Fox LLP’s ‘top-notch negotiators’ are renowned for their ‘impeccable deal structuring’. San Francisco-based practice head Richard Brand is ‘one of the very best transactional sports lawyers in the country’, according to some. He has a track record in naming rights transactions, including the Miami Dolphins’ deal with Hard Rock International and Mercedes-Benz’s sponsorship of the new home of the Atlanta Falcons, working alongside Washington DC’s ‘excellent drafter and adept negotiator’ Steven Cohen on both deals. In Los Angeles, counsel Maidie Oliveau’s ‘sports industry experience, media savvy and dispute resolution expertise combine to provide a great advocate and partner’. In addition to serving as an arbitrator in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Oliveau advised the Sugar Bowl Host Committee on its successful bid for the 2020 College Football Playoff championship game. The Brooklyn Nets is a cornerstone client and sought advice from Brand on a television deal with YES Network.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP handles a range of work, with a particular strength in litigation. Los Angeles-based Maurice Suh is defending the Nike Oregon Project in a USADA investigation into allegations of systematic doping. Also in Los Angeles, Amy Forbes advised Hollywood Park Land Company on permitting related to the Los Angeles Rams’ new home in Inglewood, securing permits in under two months. In the transactional space, Suh and New York-based Richard Birns advised Toyota on sponsorship of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, while William Kilberg and Michael Collins in Washington DC advised the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) on the compensation and benefits provisions of its new collective bargaining agreement. In litigation, James Fogelman in Los Angeles and San Francisco-based Charles Nierlich and Austin Schwing successfully represented DraftKings in a case brought by losing daily fantasy sports players in Massachusetts seeking to use a colonial-era law to recover entry fees. In the appellate space, Theodore Olson is representing New Jersey in Christie v NCAA et al.

Winston & Strawn LLP has a particular niche in athlete representation, particularly in disputes. David Feher and Jeffrey Kessler are representing a number of current NCAA student athletes claiming that a ban on professionalism in college sports is a violation of antitrust law (Jenkins v NCAA). Away from the courtroom, the pair advised the National Basketball Players Association in its new collective bargaining agreement with the NBA; other union clients include the NFLPA, which it successfully represented in an arbitration against the league concerning the calculation of revenue for the purposes of the salary cap. In addition, the firm advises a number of sports agents and the North American Soccer League; the league alleges that US Soccer’s decision to grant it Division II rather than Division I status alongside MLS is a violation of antitrust law. David Greenspan is also a name of note in the New York-based practice.

Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP’s team, based in Washington, has a particularly strong practice in litigation. Lisa Blatt is representing the Washington Redskins in litigation following the cancellation of six of its trademarks in 2014 by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, which deemed them to be disparaging to Native Americans. In the broadcast space, Robert Garrett represents various organizations, including the NFL and UFC, regarding the Copyright Office’s study of the impact and effectiveness of the safe harbor provisions of section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, while Scott Lent represents the two NBA teams in antitrust litigation surrounding ticket resale. Other clients include the PGA.

Baker & Hostetler LLP covers a range of transactional and dispute matters for competitors and leagues. In Atlanta, Ronald Gaither (a new hire from Schiff Hardin LLP) represents MLB (a client of the firm for almost a century) and the Atlanta Braves in a personal injury case concerning a foul ball that entered the stands at Turner Field. Columbus’ Jack Bjerke specializes in motorsports; he advises Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Indy Lights promoter Anderson Promotions, as well as well-known drivers. In the construction space, Orlando-based practice head Gregory Lee advises the Orlando Magic on a development surrounding its arena.

Cooley LLP has a particular strength in matters at the intersection of technology and sport. In the San Francisco office, Michael Rhodes represented Golden State Warriors in litigation concerning the use of fans’ smartphone microphones by an official app, while in the Washington office, Adam Chase led a team advising DraftKings on its merger with FanDuel. More traditional work included Thomas Hopkins advising the owners of the Vegas Golden Knights on the NHL expansion deal, and Boston-based Michael Sheetz advises the Pac-12 Conference on a range of matters. San Diego-based Steve Strauss represents the family of 12-time Pro Bowler Junior Seau - who suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) - in wrongful death litigation against the NFL following his death by suicide in 2012.

DLA Piper LLP (US) advises teams and lenders on a range of matters, including relocations and stadium construction. Peter White in New York and Mark Whitaker in Reston, Virginia advised the NFL’s Chargers on its relocation to Los Angeles, including arrangements for the team to play at the StubHub Center as an interim measure. In addition, the firm advises Goldman Sachs on financing deals, including one concerning Barclays Center. Borrower-side mandates included White and Richard Rubano (also based in New York) advising Los Angeles Football Club on financing its new stadium. Charles Baker is now at O’Melveny & Myers LLP.

Foley & Lardner LLP handles venue development work, as well as naming rights, sports M&A and broadcast deals. Kevin Schultz advised MMA promotion Combate Americas on its broadcast contract to appear on UFC Fight Pass. Mary Braza handles disputes and deals; she successfully defended DraftKings against publicity rights claims brought by NCAA student athletes, and advised Texas Rangers in negotiations with the City of Arlington concerning a new ballpark. The University of Miami is another notable client. The team is based in Milwaukee. Irwin Raij joined O’Melveny & Myers LLP.

Top notch in all areas’, Herrick, Feinstein LLP has ‘done a nice job expanding its sports practice, becoming a significant player in the space’. The firm has a particular strength in more unusual sports, with Irwin Kishner advising the World Surf League on a range of matters, including drug testing and investment structures, and the New York Racing Association on gambling matters. Kishner, who displays ‘excellent judgment on delicate issues’, also advised the New York Yankees on refinancing Yankee Stadium. Michael Heitner has a particular strength in the fight business and advised Top Rank on setting up two world title bouts. John Goldman is also recommended. The team is based in New York.

Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP’s Chicago-based Adam Klein, among other things, advises a number of NBA teams on various non-contentious matters. Recent work for Klein includes advising the Sacramento Kings on the team’s first jersey sponsor, assisting the owners of Philadelphia Union with the acquisition of a United Soccer League franchise, and advising the Chicago White Sox on its sale of stadium naming rights to Guaranteed Rate. Away from ball sports, the firm advised Monster Energy on its sponsorship of Nascar’s Cup Series.

Loeb & Loeb LLP has experience in a diverse range of sports, handling mainly transactional matters but also disputes. Los Angeles-based Scott Zolke advised on the franchise aspects of the NHL’s creation of the Vegas Golden Knights, while New York-based Brian Socolow advised Vivint on its purchase of naming rights to Utah Jazz’s stadium. In Chicago, litigator Douglas Masters’s work includes successfully defending USA Track and Field in an antitrust claim concerning US Olympic Trials’ sponsorship rules, and successful trademark opposition proceedings for the NCAA. Los Angeles-based Arash Khalili works with athletes and advised three-time Pro Bowler Shawne Merriman on his clothing line’s partnership with Bellator MMA. Khalili and Socolow lead the team.

McGuireWoods LLP handles financing and sponsorship mandates, as well as sports-related M&A and private client related matters. Richard Grant, who heads up the firm’s Century City office, advised Kia Motors on sponsorship deals with two NBA teams, while Charlotte-based practice head Kevin McGinnis has a notable practice acting for well-known banks in various financing deals with ‘big four’ teams. Terrence Bagley and Dennis Belcher, both based in Richmond, advise high-profile athletes on wealth management.

O’Melveny & Myers LLP’s sports practice was bolstered by the recruitment in early 2017 of DLA Piper LLP (US)’s Chuck Baker, who has a strong track record in transactional and financing mandates. Disputes, particularly relating to boxing, are a core element of the practice, with Daniel Petrocelli and David Marroso representing Top Rank in a class action case concerning the Pacquiao-Mayweather superfight, and in a since-settled antitrust dispute with Al Haymon, who promotes Mayweather, concerning his Premier Boxing Champions television series. The bulk of the team is based in Century City, but there is also strength in New York in the form of Baker, Irwin Raij – who recently joined from Foley & Lardner LLP – and former WWE general counsel Jared Bartie, who recently joined from Herrick, Feinstein LLP.

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