Professor Steinberg ready to take you to school
A letter came last week addressed to Professor Steinberg and I was about to write, “Return to Sender,” when I realized with shock this Thursday afternoon kicks off a course in “Sports and Entertainment Law” that I’ve agreed to teach at UC Irvine’s School of Law.
While I have spoken on over 75 different campuses over the last 40 years, I have zealously turned down every invitation to commit to an actual teaching responsibility and avoided it like the plague.
So why now?
The legal side of sports has never needed an infusion of idealistic, principled professionals more than now. Dean Erwin Chemerinsky is a shining beacon of legal expertise and vision. He created a law school several years ago with the goal of giving students actual experience with local attorneys and providing them with real life practical experience.
They were able to attract the best and brightest students from across the nation by offering them full or partial scholarships. The law school has leaped rapidly into the top tier. We have had the privilege of the services of one of these students, Justin Greely, who has been enterprising and indispensable.
The first emphasis in this course will be values. It is critical these students understand that a sense of self respect, living in a nurturing family and being an active part of a community are essential. They need to be committed to ethical and fair dealings in all their transactions.
Sports does not need more monomaniacal plumbers adding to corrupt systems. And, they must have a passion for whatever work they do. The world of sports has exploded with the content and financial impact of expanded television creating new job concepts. There are legal and management positions at national and regional networks, in radio, and at newspapers.
The field of sports marketing and memorabilia offer ample opportunity. Leagues, conferences, individual franchises and colleges all need legal service and administration.
The Olympics and amateur sanctioning bodies have needs. New stadia and arenas have positions. Corporations interested in sports marketing have positions. Each team sport has a union or players association representing the players and legal and management needs.
Player representation may be the most glamorous field attracting business and law students. Virtually every coach at the collegiate and professional level is now represented by agents. The Internet, mobile phones, sports motion pictures, nutrition advances and new technologies offer employment prospects. So students need to conceptualize a holistic view of sports in all its permutations to calculate a viable career arc.
The course will start with a session on contracts between teams and athletes, and athletes and their agents. The negotiation and drafting of contracts is the essential centerpiece in any sports practice. We will then peruse the regulations which surround sports — collective bargaining agreements, union regulations, NCAA regulations, league governance and labor relations, and the antitrust implications of these rules and the draft.
Next will be the concept of recruiting clients which will feature the experiences of a prominent athlete.
We will examine media — television, radio, films. new media and new technology with the assistance of Robert Hacker, vice president of business affairs for the Fox network, who specializes in their talent contracts.
We will then turn to a look at salary caps, arbitration, and various methods of conflict resolution. There will be a lively class on marketing and branding which will feature my COO Scott Bogdan, who has extensive background in athletic marketing and branding.
As I have emphasized role modeling and charitable and community involvement for 40 years, a class will involve the establishment of foundations featuring Kevin Kaplan, who administers large numbers of these athletic charities.
Player conduct and discipline will be discussed. I want to train these students to understand that they can play a vital role in pioneering new initiatives.
We will be rolling back climate change through the Sporting Green Alliance, which takes sustainable technologies and integrates them into stadia and arena to drop carbon emissions and energy costs, while serving as educational platforms for millions of fans. Concussion prevention and treatment and other player safety issues, and the expanded role of women in sports will all be discussed.
We will do an extended negotiation session based on a problem involving a first round NFL Draft pick and the franchise who took him. Half of the students will play general managers and the other half player agents as they learn negotiation through trying to put a long laundry list of issues into an ultimate agreement.
We will have a general manager approach this topic from the team perspective. And, there will be a class focused on the process of purchasing and getting league acceptance of a new franchise and the challenges of ownership.
And, what course in sports would be complete without a field trip? The newly enhanced Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will provide the venue for a night at the ball game. Students need to be aware of marketing, sponsorship, promotional and branding opportunities which the Big A offers.
The goal of this endeavor is to help provide a new generation of idealistic, creative, talented principled young professionals to take sports boldly through this millennium.
LEIGH STEINBERG is a renowned sports agent, author, advocate, speaker and humanitarian. His column appears weekly. Follow Leigh on Twitter @steinbergsports or blog.steinbergsports.com.