By Zach Daniel
As if the commotion of the Pro Bowl, Super Bowl, and shouts of “Who Dat” throughout the streets of South Beach were not enough excitement for the city of Miami, the Entertainment and Sports Law Society at the University of Miami School of Law hosted its 13th Annual Entertainment and Sports Law Symposium on Feb. 5 to coincide with football’s greatest week of the year.
Not to be outdone by the big game, the student-run Symposium offered a star packed lineup of panelists discussing a wide range of areas of sport and entertainment law, from managing superstar clients to video game licensing and liability.
The initial music panel was followed by a look into Negotiation and Arbitration featuring an extremely diverse group of panelists. Wharton School of Business Professor Kenneth Shropshire offered four categories of negotiators: competitors, avoiders, problem solvers, and compromisers. Shropshire suggested that no style is the right style because each negotiator must adopt the style that best suits his or her character. NFL agent Anthony Agnone offered his experience representing professional football players by giving tips on preparing players for free agency and discussing the NFL’s upcoming collective bargaining negotiations. The panel then shifted to a discussion of what happens when negotiations fail. Texas attorney Lawrence Waks offered his experience representing international clients in entertainment, media, and publishing industries. Waks explained to the audience the many do’s and don’ts in preparing a client’s case for international arbitration. Finally, NFL arbitrator Roger Kaplan offered his experience as former arbitrator for the NBA and MLB by discussing arbitration procedures in professional sports leagues. Kaplan ended the panel by polling the audience on arbitration scenarios that often cause league arbitrators to lose their jobs if the league disapproves of the decision.
The keynote address was given by University of Miami alum Billy Corben, director/producer of “ESPN’s 30 for 30: The U” and “Cocaine Cowboys” documentaries. Corben gave an entertaining and thought-provoking address that looked into the legal issues involved with making such controversial films. Corben showed clips of each of his films and discussed the myriad of legal complaints he has received, from interviewees claiming authorship rights for their cooperation to music licensing companies claiming infringement based on the background music in home-video clips used in the films. Corben joked with the crowd that his filmmaking style and desire to thrive off of controversy will keep the many future entertainment attorneys in the audience employed for years to come.
Throughout the afternoon, the Symposium featured panels paralleling the superior quality of events held during Super Bowl week in Miami. The always-entertaining Miami Law alum and local sports/entertainment attorney, Alan Fertel, moderated a panel focused on managing a superstar client via the “team approach.” The panel featured MTV Entertainment attorney Debbie Spander, as well as the talented entertainment attorney, musician, and UM Law alum David Beame and adjunct UM Law professor David Bercuson. “The Professor,” who has dedicated his life practice to entertainment law, couldn’t seem to escape jokes that he taught both Beame and Fertel when they were law students at Miami. The discussion ranged from how to manage a superstar client’s “diva ego” to what to wear and how to act if and when you head out for drinks with a client. The legal perspective of the discussion was complimented by wealth management expert Barry Klarberg, who offered his experience advising many high net worth superstars such as Justin Timberlake. Klarberg explained the difficulties in protecting clients’ financial rights and jokingly suggested that the biggest “divas” he is required to work with are, oftentimes, the attorneys themselves.
Temple University sports law professor Jeremi Duru led a panel featuring NCAA associate general counsel Scott Bearby and former UM Athletic Director Paul Dee. The panel discussed the NCAA’s focus on maintaining an academic atmosphere by promoting fundamental fairness in NCAA rules and battling the commercialization by revenue producing entities that have developed in college sports. The views offered by Bearby and Dee were complemented by Collegiate Images General Counsel Gregg Brandon and CBS Interactive VP of Business and Legal Affairs Thomas Knapp. Brandon described the process of protecting universities’ intellectual property and licensing rights from unlicensed distributors. Knapp went on to explain the staggering growth numbers of public interest in viewing collegiate games online and the growing demand for college fantasy sports that is feeding the commercialization of intercollegiate athletics discussed by Bearby.
The Symposium wrapped up with a very suitable topic for the city of Miami that weekend: “The Business of Professional Sports.” Sports Business authors Mark Isenberg (Money Players) and Scott Rosner (The Business of Sports) joined Keven Davis (Partner at Garvey, Schubert and Barer who works with high profile athletes and entertainers) and Mike Sophia (Executive Director of the Miami Dade Sports Commission) to discuss bidding, funding, and stadium construction requirements necessary to land a big event like the Super Bowl, Olympics, or World Cup in your city. The panel suggested that the value of hosting such an event is often overstated. This inflated value causes stress to cities like Miami when requirements to build new stadiums and revamp the city are levied by league officials, specifically NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell who stated that Sunlife Stadium will need $250 million in upgrades, before a bid for such an event will be considered. Also, the panel discussed how to properly manage superstar athletes’ activities to protect their ever-important sponsorship deals. Specifically, they debated the appropriate use of morals clauses and how to attempt to include reverse morals clauses in sponsorship agreements. The panel suggested different approaches that would directly lead to different results, exemplified by the successful management of the drug related photos of Michael Phelps compared to the complete lack of management in the recent Tiger Woods saga.
Zach Daniel is a student at the University of Miami School of Law