NYC Bar Association Event – Taking a Knee: Legal Implications of Athlete Political and Social Activism

Piggybacking on what looks like a great event at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, I wanted to invite readers to a similar event being hosted by the New York City Bar Association’s Sports Law Committee on April 30.  Information below.

Taking a Knee: Legal Implications of Athlete Political and Social Activism

Monday, April 30, 2018 | 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Program Fee: $15 for Student Members | $25 for Members | $20 for Public Interest Lawyers | $40 for Non-Members

Includes cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.



Do professional athletes need to check their voices and opinions before walking on the field or court? Should they use their public profiles as a platform for social justice issues and reform? Does a team or league have the authority to require neutral politics and behavior from players if they want to get paid and put in the game?
In recent years, we have seen an increase in social and political activism by professional athletes, especially around issues of race and equal pay for female athletes. Their actions have been met with a wide range of reactions – from strong praise and solidarity to vehement admonishment, and everything in between. Being a political or social activist on the field raises various legal issues – including labor and employment law concerns between the players and their teams or leagues, potential First Amendment considerations, and possible contractual issues with sponsors.

This event will explore the recent controversy in “taking a knee” by drawing on the expertise of individuals with first-hand experience, including athletes, team and league executives, union representatives, agents, and others with careers in the sports industry.


Jeff Fannell, Founder and Owner, Jeff Fannell & Associates, a sports management and consulting firm. Fannell was formerly in-house counsel at the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) and an Adjunct Professor, St. John’s University School of Law, teaching Sports Law.


Teri Patterson Smith, Deputy COO and Special Counsel, NFL Players Association (NFLPA), where she oversees all NFLPA community efforts and assists the Executive Director with the organization’s management. Smith was formerly with Dechert, LLP and Latham & Watkins, LLP.

Adolpho Birch, Senior Vice President of Labor Policy & League Affairs, NFL. Birch oversees the League’s policies respecting the integrity of the game, including those on substances of abuse, performance-enhancing drugs, gambling and criminal misconduct, and advances the League’s legislative and political interests. Prior to joining the NFL, Birch worked in private practice in Houston, Texas.

Alex Lasry, Senior Vice President, Milwaukee Bucks. Lasry directs the team’s digital marketing and leads the organization’s development initiatives, including the team’s rebrand and its historic public-private partnership for a new arena and 30-acre development project in downtown Milwaukee. Lasry is also part of the Management Committee that oversees the organization’s strategic growth. Prior to joining the Bucks, Lasry worked as the Deputy Counselor for Strategic Engagement at the White House and as an analyst for Goldman Sachs.

Andrew Hawkins, former wide receiver in the NFL, having played from 2011 through 2016 for the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns.  In six seasons, Hawkins caught 209 passes, for 2,419 yards and nine touchdowns.  Hawkins has an undergraduate degree from the University of Toledo and an M.S. in Sport Management from Columbia University.

Sponsoring Association Committee:

Sports Law Committee, Karen Hoffman Lent and David Sussman, Co-Chairs


Office for Diversity and Inclusion