Business law

How work turned me into a sports fan


aI think the world of sports is great, but watching sports has never been a hobby. I’m not oblivious to the fact that this is an incredibly bold statement, given that I’m writing this for the sports section, so allow me to explain.

Yes, I grew up in a loyal New York Giants family that hosted massive, stereotypical Super Bowl viewing parties; I would sit on the couch with my dad watching Sunday Night Football while he would sometimes try to explain different fouls or how fouls occurred. But, honestly, I couldn’t have cared less for myself at the age of five.

In hindsight, those moments were more a service to tradition than my own viewing pleasure. I can’t tell you who won the NBA Finals in 2014 or which college is projected to win March Madness. As the years and seasons passed, I found a new lens through which I could view sports: a lens that I was already fascinated with and that provided me with a new respect for the die-hard fans who follow these sports closely.

Sport is more than just stats and names. It’s about real people, real stories, and real professions. It is related to business, economics and marketing as well. While on the surface fans may only be concerned with the end result, it’s much more complicated than what’s going on behind the scenes.

From conference realignments and media rights deals to contract law and name, image and likeness rules, college athletics is evolving. Cases like O’Bannon v. NCAA in 2014 — in which the ruling said NCAA rules preventing athletes from receiving NIL compensation violated antitrust laws — and NCAA v. Alston — whose ruling allowed student-athletes to receive educational benefits — were notable moments for athletes in the college.

Student athletes are the ones entering this new and ever-changing landscape of money, business, and legitimacy in sports. Things are certainly changing in the Wild West—for better or worse, only time will tell. This new era of branded sports combined with the athletes who play those sports impacts how those sports succeed, but more importantly, how college athletes create a career and a name for themselves.

NIL is still at a controversial point. While athletes are allowed to make up to six, maybe even Seven, representing their personal “brand”, and the rules surrounding it in the NCAA are relatively new.

Earlier this year, USC head football coach Lincoln Riley told the Los Angeles Times that he wasn’t surprised by the university’s approach to NIL collections, but that it was happening “probably faster than he expected.”

When the university announced the hiring of Jennifer Cohen as its new athletic director at a press conference on August 21, Cohen addressed her goals in building the NIL program at USC using her experience from the University of Washington, where she previously served as athletic director.

“Our goal is to develop a championship program where all 21 of our teams can win national championships and provide a world-class student sports experience… A strong NIL program is critical to achieving this,” said Cohen. “So, given my wealth of experience building the NIL program at my previous institution, I will roll up my sleeves to support our coaches in any way I can and, most importantly, give our student-athletes the opportunities they deserve.”

It may not be quite as widespread yet, but it’s slowly starting to happen on our campuses for our beloved athletes. As in the rest of the team athletics.

So, while sports may not have been my first choice in what to watch on TV growing up, it’s certainly something I’d be happy to write about this semester. Whether it’s new contract deals involving college athletes or NIL groups at USC, I want to explore them through this column, tracing the evolving intersection of business, law, and sports.

Anjali Patel is a great writer on Expanding the business and legitimacy of sports in her “Money Plays” column published every Wednesday. She is also Associate Editorial Director of the Daily Trojan.


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