November 7, 2019

James W. Quinn’s New Book – Don’t Be Afraid to Win: How Free Agency Changed the Business of Pro Sports


Like any other American business, professional sports is not without its tension and friction between management and labor. The difference: pro sports are multi-billion-dollar businesses with national television contracts and endorsement deals that are in some cases more than player salaries.

How did professional sports go from a quaint collection of athletes that had to take jobs in the off-season to pay their bills to the industry it is today? According to noted trial lawyer and occasional mediator Jim Quinn it was the advent of free agency that forever changed American sports.

Don’t Be Afraid to Win: How Free Agency Changed the Business of Pro Sports  by Jim Quinn takes the reader inside the tense meetings between owners, players and league unions to explain the intricacies of free agency and why it matters. As onetime lead counsel for each players’ association, Quinn makes you an intimate spectator in both the boardrooms and in the courtrooms where these monumental battles were fought. He uses specific examples and case studies from the four major sports leagues – MLB, NHL, NFL and NBA – to show how the owners and players in each league fought, made up, fought again and ultimately found middle ground…at least for now.

Labeled by The New York Times as “instrumental in helping change the face of major professional sports,” Quinn has influenced modern sports business for decades. Beginning back in the 1970’s with the landmark Oscar Robertson basketball free agency case, Quinn battled owners in all four major leagues to make sure the players got their fair share. In the early 1990’s, he faced the goliath National Football League and won the right to free agency for players. Quinn has spent a lifetime dealing in the gritty sports business to make fair agreements for players.

In Don’t Be Afraid to Win, Quinn provides a unique point of view of someone who was personally involved in making changes happen in the business. He specifically takes readers along for the ride to explore:

  • How the first player strike in sports history changed professional sports forever…and lasted only 21 minutes
  • The hard lessons learned during the 1987 NFL strike, the 1999 NBA lockout and the 2005 NHL lockout
  • Throughout these battles there were heroes and goats on both sides, but the true leaders were the union heads and union members, who put their careers on the line to change pro sports for the better
  • The role of national television contracts as a force of good and bad during battles between owners and players

“My hope in setting down this history and telling these stories is to give some insight as to how the current structure of the major team sports in America came to be, with particular emphasis on the central role players and their unions played in shaping that structure,” writes Quinn. “Along the way, I plan to explode a few of the myths about the people and the events critical in getting us where we are with sports in America today.”

About the Author:

JAMES W. QUINN is one of the most accomplished trial, arbitration, and mediation lawyers in the U.S. Mr. Quinn spent virtually his entire career at Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, a premier international law firm based in New York City. At Weil, he served for more than two decades as both head of the firm’s 350-attorney Litigation Department and as a member of the Firm’s Management Committee. Mr. Quinn practiced in all areas of complex litigation and alternative dispute resolution, with particular emphasis on antitrust, securities, false advertising, sports, entertainment, patent, and related complex intellectual property litigation. He also developed extensive experience serving as an arbitrator under, among others, ICC and AAA International rules. He is currently counsel to the national litigation boutique firm Berg & Androphy and a principal in JWQuinn ADR, a mediation practice where he tries to settle, rather than start, disputes.

Mr. Quinn received his B.A. from the University of Notre Dame and his L.L.B. from Fordham University School of Law, where he teaches a course about winning at trial.

See all of the articles, reviews and interviews about Don’t Be Afraid to Win

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