In 2013, Cleodis Floyd was victorious in an arbitration against the National Football League Players Association after the union denied his NFL agent application. The union did not want to certify him because Floyd was previously convicted of fraud.
NBA superstar Andrew Wiggins was destined to become one of the most prominent basketball players in the world. The 2014 first overall pick that was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves had many sports agencies knocking on his door to represent him for the draft and thereafter. Ultimately, Wiggins chose agent Bill Duffy and his agency BDA Sports, but not before he called on Heitner Legal to assist him with negotiating the agency deal.
Far too many players will sign on the dotted line with a sports agency and without truly understanding the terms within the contract. That is not so much a problem with the standard representation agreements that govern commissions on NBA and team contracts in other leagues. It becomes more of an issue for off-court and off-field deals. But Wiggins was wise in having Heitner Legal look through the agreement that would bind him with BDA Sports, and after some negotiations, Wiggins ultimately signed with the agency.
Wiggins also asked Heitner Legal to help with some off-court marketing contracts and we assisted him with negotiating a contract with Monster, LLC, a mobile app developer for the creation of a video game and sports beverage and supplement brand BioSteel Sports Supplements Inc.
The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear New Jersey’s appeal that would potentially allow the state to provide sports betting within its borders.
In NYC on Tuesday night, Roger Goodell (NFL commissioner), Adam Silver (NBA commissioner), Rob Manfred (MLB commissioner), and Gary Bettman (NHL commissioner) gathered together for a panel titled “GameChangers: Creating the Future of Sports” at the Paley Center for Media. How New Jersey’s case is decided could have implications on not just New Jersey, but the rest of the United States, as well.
When asked about sports gambling issue, Adam Silver said “my sense is the law will change in the next few years in the United States.” Silver also added that “people want to bet throughout the game … It results in enormous additional engagement with the fans.”
The world of gaming law can be quite complex and Heitner Legal can help guide through the many possible legal questions that might arise. Heitner Legal has a great deal of experience in gaming that includes various advisory opinions and memos that are well respected in the industry.
Professional sports leagues in the United States have been opposed to legal sports betting since Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in 1992. PASPA is a general federal prohibition against sports betting, aside from activities within the state of Nevada, which has been grandfathered in.
Adam Silver made his support for a federal approach to legalized sports betting well-known in his 2014 New York Times op-ed. In his editorial opinion, Silver said “times have changed since PASPA was enacted. Gambling has increasingly become a popular and accepted form of entertainment in the United States. Most states offer lotteries. Over half of them have legal casinos. Three have approved some form of Internet gambling, with others poised to follow.”
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has also shown his increasing support for the legalization of sports betting. Manfred told reporters “[i]f there’s going to be a change in the regulatory structure with respects to sports gambling, we needed to be in a position to meaningfully engage and shape, try to shape what the new regulatory scheme looks like.” Manfred also said, “[t]here’s a difference between someone betting on whether the next ball is a strike or betting on the outcome of a game.”
Even though in the past, the NHL has been pretty quiet on the sports betting issue, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has stated that he is not worried with the Las Vegas Golden Knights slated to begin games this year. He said “[w]e’re a small part of betting compared to football and basketball. I don’t worry about fixing games.”
Lastly, the NFL has been publicly against the legalization of sports wagering for quite some time. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell chose not to update the NFL stance at Tuesday night’s panel. However, a clearer stance will be required from the NFL with the Las Vegas Raiders arriving in a few seasons.
Unfortunately, everyone is still going to have to wait quite some time as oral arguments in the New Jersey betting case are expected to be heard by the United States Supreme Court between late Fall 2017 and early 2018. Those in support of legalization will argue that times have changed, as Adam Silver has noted, and those opposed will likely rely on the strict language within PASPA to keep the federal prohibition alive.
Zachary Zaggar of Law360 recently wrote an article titled, “Riot ESports League Looks To Align With Traditional Sports.” A subscription is required to read the full article.
Therein, the discussion surrounded the League of Legends developer and publisher deciding to adopt a franchise model. The assumption is that it is trying to frame esports in a similar fashion as traditional sports.
Heitner Legal lawyer Darren Heitner was quoted therein as an attorney with experience representing various individuals and entities in the space. His believe is that the franchise model will hedge a lot of the perceived risk attached to the still widely unknown esports industry.
At Heitner Legal, we are often asked to conduct diligence on and draft/negotiate contracts for various types of rights deals. One common rights deal negotiation in the world of sports relates to TV rights.
Bleacher Report recently asked Darren Heitner to opine on how/if ESPN layoffs will in any way affect the bidding for TV rights deals, with the UFC looking to negotiate a massive new arrangement in the near future. The article, With ESPN Cutting Costs, UFC Faces Challenge in Meeting Bold TV Rights Fee Goals, includes a few quotes from Heitner.
“It is impossible to ignore the exorbitant fees that ESPN pays for the rights to broadcast a wide spectrum of sporting events, but it is part and parcel of being the ‘Worldwide Leader,’ I suppose,” Darren Heitner, an attorney and founder of Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., a law firm that specializes in sports law, told Bleacher Report. “ESPN is in this precarious position in which it feels obligated to win bidding wars for important TV rights or else it will shed some of its excellence in comparison to much weaker networks. The key question is: if ESPN reduces its role in bidding, will the fees be reduced in accordance with ESPN’s action?”
“I don’t think rights fees are in trouble, per se, but I think that they may plateau in the near future,” Heitner said. “UFC rights should still be exploited for a very large sum of money, and the multiple of 4x is possible. It is more difficult to value those rights, as the sport is continuously attracting a wider, larger audience over time.”
On May 1, Darren Heitner joined The Paul Finebaum Show to talk about his Forbes article Why NFL Draft Prospects Should Look At Bowl Games As Business Decisions.
You can listen to the interview in the second hour of the show, which aired on ESPN radio. Heitner and Finebaum discussed why NFL draft prospects should look at bowl games as a business decision and more.
It was very exciting to read that the BITKRAFT Esports Ventures fund announced a raise of 18 million Euro with a target close of 30 million Euro. The news broke this morning, which I reported on Forbes, and as you will note, there is a disclosure indicating that HEITNER LEGAL assisted in the diligence for one of the investors involved.
BITKRAFT, which officially launches today, describes itself as the first esports specific fund that is focused exclusively on incubating, building and investing in esports startups.
At HEITNER LEGAL, we specialize in a wide array of sectors, including the rapidly expanding esports industry. It was an honor to conduct diligence for Inner Circle Sports prior to it committing to an investment in BITKRAFT.
On February 23, Darren Heitner of Heitner Legal wrote an article on Sports Agent Blog highlighting the State of Oregon’s efforts to modify its sports agent law. Oregon is one of dozens of states with a sports agent law on its books.
As a leading lawyer in the realm of sports agency, Heitner was also asked by Law360 to provide some commentary on the proposed changes to Oregon’s athlete agent statute. The following are quotes extracted from the Law360 article.
“The traditional definition of an athlete agent is one who negotiates a contract between an athlete and a team or a more expansive definition of one who may be negotiating for an athlete with a brand for endorsement or marketing opportunities,” attorney Darren Heitner of Heitner Legal PLLC, who has represented sports agents, told Law360.
“But here, the state of Oregon appears to be trying to include anyone from financial planners to accountants, etc., anyone who has any role in an athlete’s potential business affairs,” he said. “I have never seen expansion or an attempt at an expansion of the definition of an agent that Oregon is considering.”
“Here it appears that the state is not only concerned about the university but also the athlete, who may lose potential eligibility to compete if an agent violates the act,” he said. “To me, this is a first of a kind.”
From the Miami Herald:
Baltimore Ravens running back Terrance West and the owners of The Metropole South Beach Hotel quietly settled a lawsuit West filed in a Miami-Dade County court after he was robbed twice in one day at the hotel last year.
The terms of the deal the parties reached are confidential.
But Darren Heitner, West’s attorney, said his client was happy with the outcome.“He’s just glad to be able to move on and focus on football,” Heitner said.
Tyler Mathisen has the story of a former college football player Vicente Fernandez who started a business with his mother by tapping into the emotions of sports’ fans everywhere. The business is SportsManias, an increasingly successful client of Heitner Legal.
SportsManias has recently brokered deals with LIDS and Papa John’s.