NYU Sports Law Colloquium a Success

May 31, 2024

By Caleb Paasche

On April 5th, the NYU Sports Law Association hosted its 13th annual colloquium, featuring speakers from across the sports law industry. The colloquium consisted of three panels and a concluding keynote address, delivered this year by Jeffrey Kessler, co-executive chairman of Winston & Strawn LLP and one of the country’s foremost sports attorneys.

Kicking off the panel was a discussion on Artificial Intelligence in Sports. An assembled panel of attorneys and legal experts discussed the issues in a free flowing discussion aptly moderated by Sports Business Journal’s Joe Lemire. Meeka Bondy, senior counsel at Perkins Coie LLP and an expert in AI and innovative technologies, discussed what AI technologies really look like in the world of sports and some of the privacy and copyright concerns they might raise in this field. Samir Patel, innovation and technology attorney at Holland & Knight LLP, informed the audience of new technologies in this space and how they can apply to both existing and up-and-coming sports leagues. Sean Cottrell, founder and CEO of LawInSport, discussed some of AI’s ethical issues and explained how AI can track and impact player performance. The panel also looked at topics such as wearable technology, sports betting, and how players’ associations might react to the expansion of AI in all of these areas.

The colloquium’s second panel, moderated by NYU’s own Cameron Myler, a professor at the Tisch Institute for Global Sport and a four-time Olympian, was dedicated to sportswashing and sports as diplomacy. The panel began with a discussion of sportswashing’s proliferation in global sport and how to define and differentiate sportswashing, led by Sarath Ganji, founder of The Autocracy and Global Sports Initiative. Jodi Balsam, professor of law at Brooklyn Law and NBC’s on-air legal analyst, discussed some recent developments concerning LIV Golf, Saudi Arabia being named the host of the 2034 World Cup, and other specific projects. Maureen Weston, professor of law at Pepperdine School of law, covered international law and the potential complications sportswashing can raise. Elliot Peters, partner at Keker, Van Nest & Peters LLP, drawing upon his own experience litigating against LIV Golf, took the audience through some of the ethics of sportswashing including lessons on client selection and what attorneys can and should do to prevent sportswashing. Whether sportswashing can be tamed was a particular focus for this panel, as the answers will impact sports around the globe for years to come.

The day’s final panel examined NCAA Conference Realignment, bringing together distinguished experts who have worked on media deals, school movement, and more. Moderated by Robert Boland, longtime sports law attorney and Professor of Sports Law at Seton Hall, the panel commenced with a discussion of the legal considerations for universities as they switch conferences. Drew Tulumello, partner and co-head of the Complex Commercial Litigation practice at Weil, Gotshal, and Manges LLP talked through his experience representing schools as they look to move conferences and how those moves impact critical business considerations like the school’s share of a media deal. Michael McCann, the Director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire, discussed the professionalization of college athletics and how it has impacted conferences, students, and broadcasting deals. Benjamin McGovern, Partner at Holland & Knight LLP, talked about the potential legal issues facing conferences charged with antitrust violations and how those compare to the legal considerations of schools.

Finally, the colloquium concluded with a conversation between Kevin Bruton, instructor at NYU’s Tisch Institute of Global Sport and Columbia University’s former Associate Athletic Director of Compliance, and Jeffrey Kessler, Co-Executive Chairman of Winston & Strawn LLP. As one of the foremost sports attorneys in the country, Mr. Kessler’s address focused on his experience in college athletics, a space he is prominent in given his 9-0 victory in the Supreme Court representing college athletes in NCAA v. Alston, a decision that opened the door for NIL sponsorships after the Supreme Court ruled that NCAA member schools were in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act by agreeing to limit athlete compensation for academic-related costs. Mr. Kessler discussed whether the myriad pieces of congressional legislation purporting to regulate NIL deals had a chance of passing (not likely, according to Mr. Kessler) or could be particularly workable. The talk also focused on the fairness of college athletics, and while there will always be huge discrepancies between schools, that NIL can be structured in a way that is still fundamentally fair and may even improve competitive parity between schools. Athlete unionization was one final relevant topic, with Mr. Kessler looking at whether unionization could be a prominent trend going forward and how schools might work to prevent student-athlete unions that would threaten their fundamental model of sports. Mr. Kessler’s address was a fitting end to a day of lively discussion which surely opened the audience’s minds to potential legal issues throughout the sports world.

Articles in Current Issue