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Sports

Skadden has one of the leading sports law practices in the country. We have successfully handled high-stakes matters for the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the PGA TOUR, the United States Tennis Association and the Arena Football League, including litigation, antitrust, corporate, labor, league governance and intellectual property issues. We also have represented numerous individual major league teams and their owners in player disputes, mergers, acquisitions, stadium financings, venue leases, sponsorship agreements, corporate financings and project finance work.

Our attorneys have a thorough understanding of the legal challenges that can arise in the sports world and the best approaches for addressing those issues. We serve as a principal outside counsel to both the NBA and the NHL and have been involved in nearly every major legal decision affecting these leagues for more than two decades. Additionally, we have played a principal role in many of the most high-profile disputes on behalf of sports leagues, such as monopoly claims against the NFL, and labor disputes and collective bargaining agreements for the NBA, NHL, NFL and Arena Football League.

Skadden’s hallmark across disciplines is our ability to handle the most challenging issues our clients face, including many first-of-their-kind matters. Our sports practice is no different. In the litigation area, we are representing the NHL in multidistrict litigation brought by a putative class of retired players for personal injuries arising from concussive and sub-concussive injuries sustained while playing in the league, and the NCAA in federal antitrust class actions by Division I football and basketball players challenging amateurism rules barring compensation for student athletes. We secured the dismissal of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s lawsuit against two clients: the National Basketball Association, Commissioner Adam Silver and Former Commissioner David Stern. Our attorneys also successfully advised the NCAA, NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB in lawsuits against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to prevent New Jersey’s authorization and licensing of gambling on athletic events.

Much of our corporate work draws on the extensive and relevant experience of our attorneys across multiple practices firmwide, including M&A and banking (numerous team sales and financings for the NHL), corporate finance (in Williams Invest Holdings’ €250 million initial public offering — the first-ever IPO by a Formula One racing team), intellectual property and technology (with MetLife’s 25-year agreement to name the Meadowlands Stadium in New Jersey — one of the largest stadium-rights deals in U.S. sports history); real estate (in a new studio lease for the MLB Network), corporate restructuring (in the Dallas Stars’ and Phoenix Coyotes’ bankruptcies), project finance (particularly in the construction of new stadiums and arenas) and antitrust (with our routinely advising on issues for NBA and NHL), among other areas.

Ranked in the top tier for Sports Law by Chambers USA 2016, U.S. News — Best Lawyers "Best Law Firms" 2017 and Legal 500 2015, named a Chairman’s Club law firm — part of the "dominant tier in sports law" — in the SportsBusiness Journal’s 2016 "Power Players: Outside Counsel" feature and named among Law360’s Sports Groups of 2015 and 2016, our practice covers the full range of matters industry-wide. Additional representative experience includes:

Litigation and Counseling

  • Defeated a preliminary injunction application brought against the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) by the Elite Rodeo Association (ERA) and its athlete-owners, alleging that the PRCA board adopted bylaws denying membership to owners of competing rodeo associations. The ERA shortly thereafter abandoned the case
  • The dismissal with prejudice of a federal antitrust complaint against PGA TOUR Inc. brought by 168 caddies at the TOUR’s golf tournaments alleging that, by requiring caddies to wear bibs that often include the tournament sponsor’s corporate logo, the TOUR violated antitrust laws, the Lanham Act and the caddies’ rights of publicity
  • Filed a Ninth Circuit amicus brief for the NFL, MLB and PGA TOUR in connection with a case involving whether over-the-air broadcasts can take advantage of the compulsory license available to cable systems under the Copyright Act
  • Representing the NHL in a federally consolidated class action brought by consumers of online fantasy sports-betting websites FanDuel and Draft Kings alleging purported federal RICO and state law violations
  • The dismissal of a putative federal personal injury class action against the NFL filed by 10 retired players who alleged that the league and its teams improperly provided prescription medications to players
  • Filed an Eighth Circuit amicus brief for the NHL and MLB on behalf of the NFL in a case involving former NFL players seeking to recover for the use of their likenesses in prior game footage or highlights. The Eighth Circuit adopted our position on copyright preemption
  • Secured an arbitration ruling that upheld the NHL’s rejection of a 17-year, $102 million contract between Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils — the first time in 25 years that an arbitrator upheld a major sports league’s rejection of a contract as a circumvention of its collective bargaining agreement
  • Purported class action challenging the NHL’s broadcast territories and blackout rules
  • Represented the NBA and NHL in separate litigation involving lockouts of their respective player unions
  • The dismissal of a breach of settlement agreement suit against the NBA and four teams originally from the American Basketball Association and the settlement of a related federal action
  • Cases relating to relocation matters, including the Seattle Sonics’ move to Oklahoma City
  • A copyright infringement suit brought against the NFL for alleged unauthorized use of hundreds of photographs of NFL games and events
  • An independent review of Rutgers University’s men’s basketball program
  • Represented the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB as amici in a Ninth Circuit appeal involving the unauthorized Internet transmission of television broadcasts
  • The dismissal of tort, contract and RICO claims against the NFL in connection with the New England Patriots’ alleged videotaping of New York Jets coaches and players during a game
  • Numerous insurance coverage disputes involving NBA teams’ salary obligations to disabled players
  • Wrongful termination and ERISA claims against the NFL by independent drug examiners
  • A lawsuit relating to sanctions imposed by the PGA TOUR against golfer Vijay Singh under its anti-doping program
  • Breach of contract claims over marketing rights to the Copa América soccer tournament brought by Traffic Sports against the South American football confederation and football federations of 10 South American countries
  • Representation of golfer Rory McIlroy in Oakley’s lawsuit over his Nike endorsement agreement
  • Litigation surrounding the operation of the New York Rangers website

 

Corporate

  • The NHL in implementing a currency hedging program in connection with the league-wide financing facility, which will permit participating clubs to convert certain Canadian dollar revenue streams into U.S. dollars
  • PGA TOUR in the formation of a new online tee-time reservation company with EZLinks Golf, Inc. called EZLinks Golf LLC
  • NHL in numerous team sales and/or financings: New York Islanders; Florida Panthers; New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center; Atlanta Thrashers and its relocation to Winnipeg, Manitoba; Phoenix Coyotes; Dallas Stars; St. Louis Blues; Minnesota Wild; Nashville Predators
  • Goldman Sachs Group in its sale of an additional stake in the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network to News Corporation
  • An ownership group in its acquisition of a minority interest in an NFL team
  • Fox in the purchase and later sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Disability insurance programs for the NBA and NHL
  • Joint venture by Group Lotus and Art GrandPrix to create GP2 and GP3 car racing teams
  • Current owners of Minnesota Viking in purchase and financing of the team
  • Williams Invest Holdings Ltd. in the acquisition of a minority stake in U.K. Formula One race car team Williams Grand Prix Engineering
  • Sport Service Deutschland’s acquisition of 90 percent stake in Germany-based hockey team Frankfurt Lions
  • FirstEnergy’s and Cleveland Browns’ naming rights deal
  • League financings for the NHL

 

Stadium and Arena Finance

Project financings involving numerous stadiums and arenas, including the lenders in the financing and/or refinancing of:

  • Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City Chiefs)
  • FedEx Field (Washington Redskins)
  • MCI Center (Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals)
  • Comerica Park (Detroit Tigers)
  • Invesco Field at Mile High (Denver Broncos)