Sports and Entertainment

For almost as long as professional and amateur sports have been enthralling fans, owners, and athletes, BakerHostetler has been on the front lines of these dynamic businesses. Having served as counsel to Major League Baseball since the 1920s—in addition to having represented leagues, teams, team owners, and sanctioning bodies for decades—we bring clients unparalleled understanding of the challenges, intricacies, and opportunities facing leagues, teams, and team owners, as well as developers, sponsors, and other segment groups affiliated with today’s ultracompetitive sports and entertainment industries.

Our Sports and Entertainment team, with more than 15 attorneys, brings diverse practice experience to our clients, including labor and employment, government policy, intellectual property, litigation, real estate transactions and finance, land use, and corporate and securities, so we understand and provide counsel based on the full context in which a client is operating.

Through our representation of leagues, teams, and team owners, our attorneys have unique insights into the complexities of taking the development of a professional sports venue from long-term vision to reality. In addition, we have a strong track record of working with and counseling all of the various parties involved in venue development, including governmental authorities and the creation of public/private partnerships.

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Baseball

Our association with major league baseball dates back nearly 100 years to the 1920’s. After years of personal and professional involvement with the Cleveland Baseball Company, one of BakerHostetler’s named partners, Joe Hostetler, was elected club secretary and later appointed general counsel to the American League. BakerHostetler lawyers drafted the League's charter and served as its General Counsel until the American and National Leagues ceased to exist as distinct legal entities in January 2000. Since then, we have served as the Washington, D.C. office of MLB and have provided government relations advice and counsel to MLB on a variety of issues.

Some of our specific representations involving baseball include counseling team owners in the acquisition and restructuring of the Cleveland Indians baseball franchise. We have defended MLB’s antitrust exemption and protected the ability of municipalities to obtain tax-free stadium financing. We also have represented MLB in resolving complex disputes with the players’ and umpires’ unions.

Football

BakerHostetler has represented the National Football League and various professional football teams with respect to workers’ compensation litigation issues in administrative proceedings and in appellate courts, as well as in a wide range of traditional labor management matters before the National Labor Relations Board and appellate courts. Also, a member of our private wealth team served three years as in-house counsel to the Cleveland Browns. Currently, we are working with another NFL team in connection with various aspects of a new stadium project.

Sports Venues

Our team managed legal and business issues related to the development, construction, financing, and operation of Jacobs Field (now Progressive Field), a project designed to keep the club in Cleveland and provide the area with the related civic and economic benefits. Our team developed the financing plan for the club’s contribution to the project, negotiated all lease agreements on behalf of the club with respect to the public/private partnership that developed, and built the ballpark and related facilities, represented the club during the value engineering and construction dispute process, and negotiated the major operating agreements, including premium seating agreements, concession agreements, naming rights agreement, advertising, and sponsorship matters.

A member of our team served as Chair of the City of Orlando Community Venues Oversight Committee for the $1 billion of public/private venue projects in downtown Orlando. The committee was responsible for the oversight of construction, finance, budgets, schedules, minority and women business enterprise (MWBE) and LEED certification for the Amway Center, renovation of the Florida Citrus Bowl, the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, and the soccer stadium.

Our attorneys have represented the owner and developer of a minor league baseball facility, managing multiple legal aspects of the project, and we’ve assisted local teams with stadium leases and other contractual matters.

BakerHostetler also submitted comments to the Department of Justice on behalf of a wide range of professional sports entities in a rulemaking proceeding concerning proposed new rules governing arenas, stadiums, and other sports venues as places of public accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Basketball

Our firm currently serves as lead counsel to the Orlando Magic’s $250 million Sports and Entertainment District redevelopment project located next to the Amway Center in downtown Orlando. Further, our employment attorneys provide executive compensation, employee benefits, immigration, and general labor advice to the Orlando Magic. We have also assisted the Orlando Magic with contract disputes of varying size and complexity.

Racing

Our lawyers have extensive experience in the auto racing business in virtually all forms of current and past motor racing niches, including Champ Car, Indy Racing League, Formula I, Grand Am, NASCAR, and other series. We have represented entities and individuals in all aspects of the auto racing business, working with team owners, drivers, sanctioning bodies, sponsors, and suppliers.

  • We represent a number of drivers with respect to negotiating and drafting driver agreements, sponsorship agreements, and endorsement contracts.
  • We have significant experience with assisting international drivers in connection with their opportunities to race in the United States.
  • We also represent a number of race teams, including all aspects of their business, such as sponsorship arrangements, supplier contracts, entity organization, and driver agreements.
  • We have represented promoters of street races in the United States and have represented sponsors in their arrangements with drivers, teams, and sanctioning bodies.
  • Our lawyers also have represented drivers, teams, sanctioning bodies, and others in all forms of dispute resolution, and we regularly consult with individuals and entities involved in all forms of auto racing in the United States.
Soccer

The firm has represented and lobbied for the Columbus (Ohio) Crew, part of Major League Soccer. In addition, and in coordination with the Central Florida Sports Commission, we created the sponsorship and agreement structure associated with the annual Major League Soccer Spring Training in Orlando, Florida. We also provided counsel in contract preparation, litigation, labor relations, and protection of team names for the Major Indoor Soccer League—at the time the top professional indoor soccer league in the United States.

Polo

BakerHostetler has worked closely with the United States Polo Association on a full spectrum of trademark matters, ranging from licensing agreements and disputes to trademark prosecution. Most significantly, our team successfully protected the United States Polo Association’s right to use images of its sport as trademarks. This significant trademark victory was upheld on appeal, gaining extensive media and legal publication coverage.

Amateur Athletics

Our team has been actively involved with agreement structures and various issues associated with amateur athletics, including NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball. We have negotiated sponsorships agreements for a variety of U.S. Olympic teams. Further, a member of BakerHostetler is serving as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Central Florida Sports Commission and a member of Florida Citrus Sports.

Select Experience

  • Managed legal and business issues related to the development, construction, financing, and operation of Jacobs Field (now Progressive Field), a project designed to keep the club in Cleveland and provide the area with the related civic and economic benefits.
  • Guided the City of Orlando Community Venues Oversight Committee through the development of $1 billion of public/private venue projects in downtown Orlando—including two sports venues.
  • Engaged in successful legislative effort to ban Internet gambling on professional sports.
  • Help MLB teams navigate increasingly complex immigration restrictions to bring talented players to the United States.
  • Coordinated national enforcement effort for MLB regarding brand protection and anti-counterfeiting, developing and executing enforcement operations in connection with season openers, all-star games, post-season, and championship games.
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Experience

  • Managed legal and business issues related to the development, construction, financing, and operation of Jacobs Field (now Progressive Field), a project designed to keep the club in Cleveland and provide the area with the related civic and economic benefits.
  • Guided the City of Orlando Community Venues Oversight Committee through the development of $1 billion of public/private venue projects in downtown Orlando—including two sports venues.
  • Engaged in successful legislative effort to ban Internet gambling on professional sports.
  • Help MLB teams navigate increasingly complex immigration restrictions to bring talented players to the United States.
  • Coordinated national enforcement effort for MLB regarding brand protection and anti-counterfeiting, developing and executing enforcement operations in connection with season openers, all-star games, post-season, and championship games.
  • Provide executive compensation, employee benefits, immigration, and general labor advice to the Orlando Magic.
  • Successfully protected the United States Polo Association’s right to use images of its sport as trademarks. This significant trademark victory was upheld on appeal, gaining extensive media and legal publication coverage.
  • Assisted MLB as Congress exercised its oversight powers to examine the role of steroids in sports.