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Careers in Sport Law

Careers in Sport LawMichael Jordan, Patrick Mahomes, and Serena Williams all have something in common and it’s not just their athletic prowess. It’s the fact that throughout their careers, each of them has worked side by side with experts in sport law. From sports agents to athletic directors, there are many paths to get to the major leagues of sport management, but each of them also requires a substantial knowledge of sport law. But what is it?

From contract law to tort law, the sport law discipline encompasses a vast expanse of legal knowledge relating to athletics. Whether working for a specific player, organization, or other clients in the field of sport, an understanding of sport law is extremely beneficial when navigating the business side of sports.

Sport management degrees are useful for people working in the athletics industry, and choosing the right specialization when possible is also key. By pursuing a Master’s in Sport Management with a concentration in sport law, you learn skills that will help you in any sport management career path you choose. Some examples of the types of sport law knowledge you gain include:

Contract Law

With a specialization in sport law, you will gain a firm understanding of contract law. This is one of the most important things to understand in the sports world. Education in contract law gives an understanding of what a legally enforceable contract looks like, how to read one, and how to apply that knowledge when negotiating for a client. If your goal is to be a sports agent, manager, athletic director, or any other high-level sports administrator, you will need a good understanding of contract law.

Intellectual Property Law

Intellectual property law focuses on the legal ownership that a person or company has over a product, including patents, designs, trademarks, and copyrights. In a sport administration career, this information can help keep athletes and others from infringing upon a team or company’s intellectual property. This knowledge can also be financially beneficial to clients if used correctly. Phrases like “Tebowing” from Tim Tebow and “Linsanity” from Jeremy Lin are trademarked, so anytime those phrases are used for profit, they legally have a right to compensation.

Labor and Employment Law

Labor and employment law focuses primarily on workers’ rights and compensation. Understanding labor laws can help when negotiating contracts with coaches and athletes as well as with sponsors. Having a thorough understanding of this knowledge can also prevent organizations from getting into legal trouble. The labor and employment subjects touched upon in sport law specializations can include discrimination, disability, hiring/firing, safety, and benefits.

Title IX Law

Title IX law involves violations of discrimination based on an athlete’s sex, gender identity, or gender expression. While Title IX covers a broad scope of industries, it has a heavy impact specifically on the world of sports.

Title IX plays a large role in the jobs of sport marketers, athletic directors and coaches. For an athletic director, a knowledge of Title IX and equal treatment is vital when scheduling games and practice times, budgeting travel and equipment expenses, and training coaching staff.

Common Title IX violations deal with sexual harassment, proper compensation, and an equal number of opportunities to play in the sports world.

Tort Law

Tort law involves the invasion of an individual’s civil rights causing injury, suffering, or loss. Sport law specializations provide sport management students with an understanding of negligence and intentional torts, including how they may affect future clients. Athletics can pose risks and may cause physical and mental harm to athletes. Because of this, tort cases including personal injury and battery lawsuits are a likely possibility.

Risk Management

Risk management is the process organizations go through to minimize the risk of harm and financial loss to them and their assets. Sport law helps students to understand the responsibilities sport organizations and facilities owe to consumers, spectators and employees.

Who Benefits from a Specialization in Sport Law?

A knowledge in sport law will be helpful, no matter what career path you take in sport management. Here are a few sport management career examples in the industry that would benefit from sport law knowledge:

Athletic Director

An athletic director is in charge of overseeing all athletic programs at a high school or college. This includes hiring coaches, budgeting expenses, and coordinating the season schedules. An understanding of sport law can be extremely beneficial to an athletic director who must adhere to the rules and regulations of organizations like the NCAA as well as state and/or amateur sport associations. It can also be helpful when looking over contracts and in following labor and employment law.

Compliance Officer

Compliance officers are often hired by sports organizations to make sure they are upholding ethical safety requirements and are protected against legal action. Compliance officers should be equipped with knowledge of the law, business management, HR skills, and risk management. Because they provide business and legal support, an understanding of sport law is necessary.

Sports Agent

Sports agents are the legal representatives of professional athletes and coaches during contract negotiations. Because of this, sports agents need to have a deep understanding of contract law and agency law. A majority of athletes come into the business in their late teens or early twenties, so having experienced and knowledgeable legal counsel is crucial. Agents are involved in negotiations with both teams and sponsors, and they are constantly looking for new talent.

Successful sports agents should be thoroughly researched on the industry’s latest best practices while building and maintaining relationships with athletes. They must be able to understand their clients’ worth in the industry to vie for them in negotiations and also have an understanding of the policies and operations of the respective leagues and organizations. They must also have a working relationship with other agents and teams, and learn an athlete’s wants and needs to create the best opportunities for them.

Sports Manager

While many use the term ‘sports agent’ and ‘sports manager’ interchangeably, they are two different careers. A sports manager has only one client, either a player or a team, and they are focused on public perception rather than behind-the-scenes negotiations.

A sports manager keeps close relationships with the media to make sure their player is in good standing with the public, manages any issues between the athlete and their team, and hires any personnel the player might need. Essentially, the sports manager is responsible for an athlete’s business dealings in order to allow the athlete to focus solely on their performance.

Sports managers for teams and organizations have similar duties on a larger scale. They make sure the organization runs smoothly, manage staff assignments, and act as a spokesperson with the marketing team to ensure the organization maintains a good public image.

About UF’s Online M.S. in Sport Management

The online Master of Science in Sport Management from University of Florida readies professionals to take on complex financial and administrative challenges in the world of sports. The comprehensive sport management curriculum can help you develop the leadership abilities and administrative proficiency necessary to advance your career. Students can customize their education by taking electives in their areas of interest or choosing between optional specializations in:

Athlete Development readies graduates to counsel players on striking a healthy balance between their physical performance and mental and financial well-being in positions like athletic director or director of player engagement.

High Performance Coaching is intended for students who wish to pursue positions in managerial coaching or athletic administration, showing them how to foster the best performances in athletes.

Sport Law teaches lawyers and administrators about legal principles that can have important applications in the world of athletics, including insurance, real estate finance, insurance, and fair competition.

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