Panelists discuss controversial topics in sports, entertainment law

Topics such as contract negotiation, licensing, endorsement and homosexuality lawsuits were discussed on Saturday when the University of Miami School of Law hosted the 10th Annual Law Symposium on campus.

The symposium focused on sports and entertainment and featured a panel of speakers. Panelists included Lawana Bryant from NASCAR, Dennis Curran from the National Football League and Daniel Fehr from the Major League Baseball Players Association.

The discussion opened with controversial news topics pertaining to entertainment and sports, such as the recent comments made by Tim Hardaway, a former Miami Heat guard, about gay athletes. His comments and the media backlash highlighted the difficult decision that sports agencies and attorneys have to make when choosing to represent celebrities who attract negative limelight.

“When you open the newspaper and see a headline like, ‘I hate gays,’ the real issue is what kind of risk do you want to take and is it worth it to represent a client,” said Scott Becher, a panelist and president of Sports and Sponsorships, a sports marketing company.

After Hardaway’s comments, the former athlete was banished from All-Star weekend in Las Vegas and spent a day with the mayor of North Miami who is openly gay, intent on redeeming his public image.

Another set of panelists discussed the process of making television shows or motion pictures and the legal contracts and licensing terms involved.

James Sammataro, an attorney for Akerman Senterfitt, a prominent Florida law firm, discussed the leverage that authors have when their books are being made into movies. For example, Tom Clancy filed a lawsuit to gain full creative control during the filming of “The Hunt for Red October” and won.

Sammataro also encouraged diligence when working with films or television.

“Do your homework; it’s very easy to protect yourself,” Sammataro said. “Laziness always comes back to bite you in the ass.”

The panelist discussions were aimed to benefit all symposium attendees, which included UM law students interested in sports or entertainment law and business professionals hoping to network.

Eric Brewstein of No Limit Management Group, a consulting company for professional poker and sports industries, represents poker-player and UM law student, Vanessa Rousso. Brewstein flew from Philadelphia to attend the symposium.

“This is a great way to make some contacts and listen to a great panel,” he said.

The crowd also included a few UM undergraduates who are thinking of a possible future in law.

“I’m certainly exploring all my possibilities,” said Brian Weise, a junior who attended the symposium.

Weise said he has always had an interest in being an agent and hopes to land an internship with Goldman-Sachs for the summer.

“I figure, ‘What better opportunity than to come and hear a bunch of intelligent people speak on the subject?'” he said.

Though a variety of different topics were discussed relating to the field of sports and entertainment law, panelist and attorney Marc Stollman summed it up with one clear, final message:

“Always be careful, be ethical and be smart, good lawyers.”

Karyn Meshbane may be contacted at