Published March 3, 2018
A new School of Law blog is offering provocative takes on of-the-moment topics in sports and entertainment law – and building community in the process.
The UB Law Sports & Entertainment Forum was created by faculty member Helen “Nellie” Drew, a longtime teacher of sports law at the school, and third-year law student Joe Schafer.
“I had been searching for a vehicle that allows students to publish in the sports law field on a quick-turnaround basis,” Drew says. “The challenge is that issues come up and are resolved very, very quickly, so by the time you do a traditional print publication, it’s already obsolete.
“I also get a lot of calls from UB School of Law alumni working in this field, and it seemed to me that it would be helpful for these people to network with each other. We’re hoping the blog helps create a community of current students and alumni who are interested in the sports and entertainment law field.”
In its early stages, the blog is focused on sports topics rather than entertainment. “Buffalo is a sports town,” Drew notes. And if you’re looking for dry analysis of black-letter law, this isn’t your kind of reading. “The objective is not to provide in-depth case law analysis,” Drew says, “but to have some insights on cutting-edge issues in the field, everything from contract law to regulation to endorsements.”
For example, in a well-read post celebrating the Olympic gold-medal win by the United States’ women’s hockey team, Drew detailed how the team pushed back against its inequitable treatment by the USA Hockey organization. From stipends to travel arrangements, staffing to equipment, she wrote, the female athletes were treated differently than the male Olympians – a violation of the federal Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act. By threatening to boycott the World Championship tournament, the women’s team forced USA Hockey to the bargaining table and won better treatment.
“Professor Drew always encourages us to write, but writing opportunities are so limited,” says Schafer, a former Division I college tennis player. “This is an opportunity for everybody to get their name out there and publish a body of work, so that when a job comes around like a team’s general counsel or associate general counsel position, people can say, ‘Not only am I a fan, but I’m a published writer and you can look at it on this blog.”
As the March Madness basketball tournament begins, Schafer is anticipating “a ton of pieces on the NCAA. There are so many crucial decisions coming up to be made in college sports, and we want to have our finger on the pulse of that. … There just aren’t many sports law blogs like this. We’re not writing 40- or 50-page pieces, we’re writing five- to 10-paragraph pieces in a timely manner.”
And there’s always the possibility of a post going viral. That happened recently with Schafer’s piece commenting on reports that accused several top college basketball programs of paying top recruits to commit to their schools. “How can the NCAA hold itself out to be the governing body of intercollegiate athletics if it is not going to enforce its own rules?” Schafer asked. ESPN’s analyst Jay Bilas tweeted a link – “interesting article,” he wrote – and the post was viewed over 9,300 times in the 24 hours following the tweet.
Alumni as well as students are welcomed as contributors. One such is Shane Costa ’13, a sports agent and founder of Pillar Sports Management. “It’s a great way to help the UB Law community understand what different careers are out there, especially in the sports world,” he says. “I have a non-traditional career as an agent. There are so many different aspects involved with sports and sports law, and I represent just a small cross-section of that. People may not know or understand how agents work. For whoever who might be reading the blog, there’s a benefit in helping the law students and the legal community as a whole understand some of the different aspects of what we do.”