ELSA Symposium Features Industry Leaders in Sports and Entertainment Law

The Cleveland-Marshall Entertainment and Sports Law Association hosted several industry leaders at its annual symposium, Friday, April 11.  Cosponsored by the Sports Lawyers Association and the Greater Cleveland Film Commission, a variety of topics in the sports and entertainment industries were covered during the all-day event.

A panel featuring Cleveland Cavaliers general counsel Jason Hillman,  Cleveland Browns defensive quality control coach and Harvard Law graduate Daron Roberts, retired National Football League player and former athletic director of Marquette University and University of Portland Larry Williams, Mid-American Conference commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher and executive vice president of Shapiro Negotiations Institute Michael Blackstone, touched on current issues in athletics, including the unionization for college athletes, and conference realignment.

"We [the NCAA] haven't done a good enough job of explaining the benefits this amateur collegiate-athletics system has produced," said Williams, from the unique perspective of a former athlete and college administrator.

The panel focused on the art of negotiation, and how leverage fits into the process.  "When you say negotiations, the first word most people associate with it is lies," said Blackstone.  "That's not how it's supposed to be."

The Greater Cleveland Film Commission sponsored a pair of panels focusing on the legal side of the film industry.  Peter Kaufman, a Hollywood producer and owner of Kaufman Entertainment Legal Group, described his industry as "different than any other business."  Based on representation of filmmakers, Kaufman suggested, "it's not enough to have just a screenplay, you need to create a sense of inevitability that the movie is actually happening."

Wilder Knight,  a New York City film producer and legal counsel who has negotiated deals with Muhammad Ali, Pele and Helen Mirren, offered a piece of advice while speaking on the importance of  future rights and project control in agreements.  "The most important aspect of entertainment law is due diligence," said Knight.

GCFC President Ivan Schwarz also led a panel with Chris Blake and Rex Miller of Hans Loeser, and Yasmine Abdel-Aal of the Kaufman Entertainment Legal Group, that covered filmmaking in the Cleveland area, among other industry subjects.  "You have to understand the language of this (entertainment) industry, just like you would in fields like space law or mergers and acquisitions," said Schwarz.

Furthermore, Jay Reisinger, Sam Reich, and Jim Juliano, counsel for the Lake Country Captains, conducted an abbreviated mock Major League Baseball arbitration hearing for a Cleveland Indians player.  Reisinger and Reich have both represented several MLB players in arbitration hearings, and Reisinger has also represented MLB stars Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte and Sammy Sosa for their suspected use of performance-enhancing drugs.