As a law student and a sports fan, the arena of sports law is a tempting, yet mysterious, field of law.
On Thursday, March 4, the Sports and Entertainment Law Association at the University of Washington School of Law hosted a panel discussion on sports law. Members of the panel included sports attorney Jeff Miller, sports agent Noah Croom, and Seattle Seahawks teammates Justin Forsett and Brandon Mebane.
Moderated by Q13 Fox Sports Anchor Aaron Levine , the panel provided its audience with insight into various facets of sports law, including the inner workings of professional sports teams' in-house attorneys, the complexities of organizing a collective bargaining agreement, and the difficulties of maintaining a healthy athlete-agent relationship.
In all, the panel provided a unique look into the world of sports law. Jeff Miller, Noah Croom, Justin Forsett, and Brandon Mebane were kind enough to contribute their time to the panel, for which the audience was certainly grateful.
Jeff Miller, a sports attorney at Foster Pepper, outlined the widespread demands of working in sports law. According to Miller, a sports attorney is required to work in a variety of legal fields, including, but not limited to, land acquisition, city ordinances, and stadium contracts. For example, Miller described the chaos surrounding Texas A&M's 2006 lawsuit against the Seattle Seahawks' use of the phrase "12th Man." Miller provided insight into the requirements of in-house attorneys, as well as advice on how to pursue this career.
Noah Croom, an agent at Seattle-based Goodwin Sports Management, explained the intricacies of an athlete-agent relationship. According to Croom, an agent not only handles client contracts, but also maintains a personal relationship with every client. Croom, who began his work in sports law while working for the National Basketball Association, pointed out that a sports agent works with a wide variety of clients, facing constant struggles with confusion, immaturity, and naivety.
When asked what he looks for in an agent, Forsett responded that he looks for the same qualities in an agent that he does in a mate. The room erupted in laughter, but Forsett maintained his position. He explained that an agent has to be dependable, accountable, and available, just as a mate would.
Additionally, Forsett said that organization was crucial in making a good first impression. Forsett recounted that one agent, while he was in college, organized a meeting in a hotel room. Forsett arrived with his parents, only to have the agent write out his plan on a hotel napkin.
"The meeting ended when the napkin came out," Forsett recalled, adding that "the agent I signed with came to me with a crisp, PowerPoint presentation. That says he's organized."
As opposed to Forsett, Brandon Mebane views his agent more like a father than a mate. Mebane said that an agent should be both supportive and available, emphasizing that the two should be very connected.
According to Mebane, the allure of big-name sports agents, such as Drew Rosenhaus, is highest as players come out of college. However, younger players don't realize that super-agents rarely have time to establish a personal relationship with their clients.
Mebane attributes the allure of super-agents to the belief that a super-agent can guarantee a player millions of dollars sooner than other agents. "That's not how it works though," said Mebane, "The way you earn that kind of money is on the field."
Forsett and Mebane agreed that their agent is someone that they talk to often, so much as to invite their agent to family occasions. Mebane remarked that his agent often attends family events, and Forsett stated that his agent is in his wedding party.
When asked if he would be comfortable with a female agent, Mebane said it would not bother him at all. Forsett broke out in a sheepish grin and, referencing his comments about looking for characteristics of a mate, announced that he would be just fine with a female agent... so long as she fit the characteristics he was looking for.
Both Forsett and Mebane stuck around after the panel discussion to answer questions, take photographs (with this author, for example), and sign autographs.