On January 26, Santa Clara Law hosted its First Annual Santa Clara Sports Law Conference at Charney Hall. Presented by Habbas & Associates, supported by the Bar Association of San Francisco, and hosted by the Office of Career Management and Professor Leonard Lun, the event was the first of its kind, featuring multiple discussion panels with the sports industry’s top attorneys and business professionals for a full day of sports law-related programming and networking.
The day’s events began at 9:45 AM, with a continental breakfast and the first two panels of the day: the first, “Navigating Legal Complexities in Sports Sponsorships.” The panel was moderated by Martin Nguyen J.D. ‘03, Assistant General Counsel at IPSY, and featured Denise Yee J.D. ’99, Vice President and Associate General Counsel for Brand, Marketing & Sponsorship Legal at Visa, Andrea Soria J.D. ’99, Vice President of Legal at Tonal, and Jarrett Streebin, Founder & CEO of EasyPost.
The second panel, titled “The Future of Sports Investment and Expansion Teams,” focused on the challenges and strengths of American sports systems with an eye to the future. Moderated by Brian Anderson, Partner and Co-Leader of Sports and Advertising Industry Teams at Sheppard Mullin, panelists Leslie Osborne ’04, Founder of Bay FC and former member of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, Danielle Slaton ’01, Founder of Bay FC and former member of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, and Carmine “CJ” Napolitano, Chief Financial Officer at Side shared their perspectives on the matter. Conversations focused on embracing the strengths of the American sports system and the advocacy for salary cap growth. Ending on a positive note, the panelists advocated for an increase in salaries across the world for women’s sports too.
Following an hour of lunch at Charney Hall, attendees gathered for the keynote speaker presentation from Bill Duffy ‘82. Duffy serves as a strategic advisor to WME (Endeavor) Sports, representing numerous NBA stars including Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Sabrina Ionescu, and others. On Bronco turf, Duffy is a Santa Clara University’s Board of Trustees member and a decorated inductee of the Santa Clara University Athletics Hall of Fame.
Duffy spoke on his vast history of both playing and working with basketball. “Basketball is a global sport,” he noted. He shared his experience meeting a fourteen-year-old Luka Doncic in Slovenia and working with Yao Ming to open up the NBA to China. “His humor and his wit—it was amazing, and probably the most interesting thing I’ve been involved with.” Duffy also answered questions on his work representing star-level athletes in the NBA and WNBA. “It’s all about those core principles: how you empower individuals and promote folks,” Duffy explained.
Answering questions from the assembled audience, Duffy also shared advice on career-building. “I think wherever you are, you just meet people,” he commented. “More than anything, in this era, it’s building a reputation; how you conduct yourself, being honest. It’s not just you: it’s what you’re doing, and the reputation you have. Integrity and stable, consistent high-level behavior [are] going to serve you well. I can’t say enough about that.”
The afternoon was occupied with the day’s third and fourth panels. The third was titled “The Emergence of Name/Image/Likeness and the Changing World of the Student Athlete.” Moderated by Richard Brand, Managing Partner and Head of Sports Practice Group at ArentFox Schiff, the panel consisted of industry professionals Debbie Spander, President & CEO at Insight Sports Advisors, Joth Bhullar, Senior Counsel, Legal & Business Affairs for Pac-12 Conference, and Joe Ferrari J.D. ’16, Associate General Counsel at Athletes First.
The fourth panel, titled “General Counsel Roundtable – Issues and Trends in the Sports Industry,” was moderated by the venerable Donald J. Polden, Dean Emeritus and Professor of Law, Santa Clara University School of Law. Panelists included heavy hitters David Kelly, Chief Legal Officer for the Golden State Warriors, Amy Tovar, Senior Vice President & General Counsel for the San Francisco Giants, and Robert Hostetter, General Counsel for Altius Sports Partners.
Turnout for the day’s events was unprecedented, with the Justice Edward A. Panelli Courtroom filled with over 100 guests. Among the attendees were Rachel Getz and Maya Shapira, J.D. candidates at Thompson Rivers Faculty of Law in Canada who flew to California specifically to attend.
“Having an opportunity to learn about the sports law industry from some of the best was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Getz noted. “The Santa Clara Law School hosted an incredible conference, and I was so fortunate to be able to both attend and receive firsthand insight into professional and American college sports.” Shapira shared Getz’s enthusiasm for the conference. “Hearing from incredible speakers including Danielle Slaton and Leslie Osborne was so inspiring regarding the future of women in sports and the incredible headway they have made over the past 4 years with Bay FC,” she commented. “Attending the Santa Clara Sports Law Conference was such an exciting moment for me.”
Comments from attending practicing lawyers and attorneys were equally enthusiastic. “Epic sports law conference,” David Lancelot, Chief Legal Officer and EVP Advocacy, at LawVu exclaimed. “Truly extraordinary guests – inspirational and highly educational. Next year you are going to need a bigger room!” Eva Schueller, Partner at Illovsky & Calia LLP echoes Lancelot’s praise. “From hearing cutting edge analysis on the future of the NCAA, to top industry players being asked fun questions, to deep discussions of legal issues facing the NFL and various pro teams, it couldn’t have been more worthwhile.”
Santa Clara Law is grateful to all of the attendees to our First Annual Santa Clara Sports Law Conference, and we hope to see you again for more equally—if not more—exciting and illuminating conversations on the future of sports litigation and law!