Dow Lohnes Sports & Entertainment evolved as a natural adjunct to the general legal services that Dow Lohnes has been providing to high net worth individual clients and to corporate clients since 1918. Our Sports Law division provides professional athletes with a full complement of legal and business services, including contract negotiations and endorsement arrangements, the preparation of estate planning documents and other related family-law documents, as well as the protection and preservation of our clients’ intellectual property rights, (i.e., their name, image and likeness). Dow Lohnes attorneys are also expert in tax, real estate and employee benefits matters. Providing comprehensive legal and business representation to our athlete clients allows them to focus on their short-term and long-term career objectives. Our clients are able to approach each practice and game with the assurance of having a highly sophisticated and skilled team of lawyers and business people from one of the nation’s top law firms serving their many business needs.
Because of the brevity of an NFL career, it is imperative that a player’s NFL contract advisor (i.e., agent) work to maximize both the total guaranteed portion and the overall value of a player’s contract. These are our chief concerns as player agents in all NFL contract negotiations, whether regarding veteran or rookie clients. As one of the top business law firms in the United States, with a 100-year history of providing high-level client representation, Dow Lohnes brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the NFL negotiation process. We routinely negotiate some of the most lucrative, multi-million dollar player contracts on behalf of our NFL clients, regardless of their position.
We work diligently to educate our NFL clients and their families on the intricacies of NFL contract negotiations to ensure that our clients are able to make informed business decisions regarding the market value of their services on and off the field. No deal is signed by our clients until we are absolutely sure that our clients are being compensated at a level at least equal to the contributions he provides his respective NFL team. Because of our constant communication with our clients and their families during the negotiation process, our NFL clients quickly become savvy businessmen who are able to maneuver in a variety of business circles.
In addition to negotiating NFL player contracts, Dow Lohnes Sports lawyers are expert in negotiating high-value marketing/endorsement arrangements on behalf of our clients. While some have more than others, we believe every NFL player has marketing potential. As discussed in further detail below, we work tirelessly to explore that potential in order to secure local, regional, and national marketing campaigns for our NFL clients.
Endorsement, Licensing, Charitable, and Other Off-The-Field Opportunities
In an increasingly competitive era in which an athlete’s on-field revenues are limited by a collectively bargained salary cap, it has become even more important for athletes to maximize all other revenue opportunities. Dow Lohnes prides itself on counseling its athlete clients at every stage of structuring and executing business and charitable endeavors throughout their athletic and post-athletic careers. To that end, we work diligently to secure rewarding endorsement, licensing and other off-the-field, revenue generating opportunities. Our athlete clients routinely serve as celebrity endorsers of products and services offered by companies such as Nike, Reebok, Under Armor, ESPN, EA Sports, Campbell’s Soup, Sprint, Motorola, Audi, Land Rover, and GMAC, just to name a few. As the athlete’s success on the field grows, so does his market appeal. Very early in the athlete’s career, we work to create and preserve his brand. Our athlete clients are counseled on the importance of protecting their brand in order to ensure that their on-the-field success translates to off-the-field revenue opportunities.
While it is essential to maximize an athlete’s off-the-field earning opportunities, it is equally important that our athlete clients remain involved in their home and NFL communities. Accordingly, the charitable trust lawyers in our Sports Practice counsel our clients on various ways to ensure that they remain firmly grounded in the communities from which they come, as well as their new NFL communities. Whether through annual youth camps, holiday food-drives, or by adopting local youth or high school football teams, our athlete clients generally embrace the significant impact that they can have on their respective communities. As their advisors, community responsibility is something we encourage our clients to accept readily.
The protection of an athlete’s name, image and likeness is a critical element of comprehensive athlete representation. Among other things, intellectual property protection is at the core of any and all marketing endeavors. In essence, an endorsement deal consists of a company deciding to use a celebrity’s name, image and/or likeness in connection with the sale of its product and/or service. Thus, endorsement engagements cannot be adequately brokered without sound intellectual property protection. Our Sports Practice has substantial experience in protecting and licensing our athlete clients’ intellectual property rights – including our athletes’ valuable right of publicity.
An athlete’s ability to control the licensing of his or her name also is an extremely valuable asset. We assist our athlete clients in obtaining domestic and international trademark and service mark protection so that they can prevent others from using their name without permission – whether on shoes or clothing, or in connection with an unauthorized endorsement of other businesses or services. This protection also extends to the Internet, where “cybersquatters” and “typo-squatters” commonly register the names of promising athletes (and common misspellings of their names) in the hopes of later selling these domain names for a profit. As athletes’ personal websites become more commonplace – whether as a way to connect with fans, for commercial opportunities, or for charitable purposes – obtaining proper legal advice in connection with such sites has become increasingly important. Given the increasing attention paid to high school age (and even younger) athletes, it’s likely that an athlete’s personal domain name (such as www.mauricedrew.com) will be registered by someone else well before an athlete plays his or her first professional game. The intellectual property lawyers in our Sports Practice routinely assist our athlete clients in recovering and eventually securing their domain names as part of our routine comprehensive protection of our clients.
Our lawyers also represent some of the nation’s largest media companies, such as Cox Communications (and its Cox Sports Television channel), Comcast Communications (and its Comcast SportsNet channel), Black Entertainment Television, and Pax TV, in negotiations with professional football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and soccer teams. Among other transactions, the firm has negotiated complex, multi-year agreements with teams such as the New Orleans Hornets, San Diego Padres, San Diego Chargers, and Arizona Diamondbacks, as well as numerous other professional sports teams.
Wealth Preservation Planning
A core element of the Dow Lohnes Sports Practice is the provision of wealth preservation planning services for professional athletes and their families. Our wealth preservation lawyers prepare wills, trusts, private foundation documents and other documents designed to assist in wealth preservation and inter-generational wealth transfer for our athlete clients. Personal tax planning services, including the transfer of wealth through gift and estate planning, asset protection and the restructuring of business interests, are provided to our professional athlete clients and successive generations of their families. Our lawyers also assist with the formation of partnerships, limited liability companies, and other business entities, including deferred compensation vehicles that are increasingly a key element of a well-designed wealth preservation plan.
Taxation (“Jock Tax”)
The tax lawyers and other tax specialists in our Sports Practice have a comprehensive, diverse national practice in federal, state and local tax matters. They are experts in tax and financial accounting issues, especially as they relate to tax planning, audits, appeals and state and local taxes. Because of certain state local tax laws that unfairly impact professional athletes, such as the infamous “jock tax,” it is imperative that professional athletes have sound tax law counsel. Our tax practitioners assist our athlete clients in minimizing their exposure to various tax liabilities through the use of highly sophisticated and sound tax planning.
Non Profit & Tax Exempt Organizations
As mentioned above, community service and charitable giving are central issues to many of our athlete clients. Attorneys in our Sports Practice counsel our clients regarding a wide variety of charitable, social welfare and other community-centered endeavors. Several of our athlete clients maintain and support charitable organizations operating in the areas of community development, educational enhancement and the arts.
We specialize in structuring and obtaining federal and state tax-exempt status for nonprofit entities, and advising clients on a day-to-day basis about a wide range of nonprofit tax and other issues.
Attorneys in our Sports Practice also counsel our athlete clients in various real estate matters. Whether they are purchasing their principal residence or a vacation house, or investment properties, our athlete clients have seasoned real estate counsel at their disposal. A major area of concentration for our real estate sport lawyers is representation of developers on all aspects of the acquisition, development and operation of apartment complexes, office complexes and retail shopping centers.
In addition to professional athletes, our real estate clients include other high net worth individuals, institutions, private and public companies and foundations. These clients are often acting as developers, owners, lenders, investors or property and facility operators. Our clients' projects are worldwide. We pride ourselves on having handled projects in almost every U.S. state as well as Mexico, France, England, Canada, Puerto Rico, Australia and the Bahamas. Because an athlete’s sports career is extremely brief, we welcome the opportunity to work with our athlete clients in using real estate as a wealth-building mechanism.
Litigation services are also available to our sports clients. While litigation is generally the last resort, our athlete clients receive the protection of renowned litigators who are prepared to protect their business interest in a court of law. Our litigators are well-known for their successful representation of our high net-worth, individual clients such as the landmark estate tax victory in U.S. Tax Court in Estate of Samuel I. Newhouse v. Commissioner.
General Legal Services
Because of our reputation for providing superior services to our clients, various individuals and entities that represent professional athletes often refer their athlete clients to Dow Lohnes to obtain legal services apart from the negotiation of their player contracts. Such services in the past have ranged from estate planning, and the formation of charitable foundations, to litigation and intellectual property matters.
As business attorneys, we do not counsel our clients on financial planning and investment matters as that is not our particular area of expertise. However, we regularly assist our NFL clients with interviewing prospective financial planners and/or investment managers. Moreover, we routinely review and evaluate on behalf of our NFL clients a wide variety of investment products and financial planning techniques offered to our clients by financial and investment professionals. We also have significant experience in evaluating business investment opportunities on behalf of our NFL clients.