Kelley Drye


Contact Information

Adisa P. Bakari

Washington, D.C.
Phone: (202) 342-8520
Fax: (202) 342-8451

Jeffery A. Whitney
Vice Chair

Washington, D.C.
Phone: (202) 342-8570
Fax: (202) 342-8451

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The Sports Entertainment Group

The Sports Entertainment Group at Kelley Drye represents athletes, coaches, front office executives, broadcasters, networks, arena and event owners, sponsors, content owners, distributors and other industry participants involved in all levels of the business of sports. We routinely advise our clients on a wide variety of matters, including athlete-team contract negotiations; athlete endorsement agreements; intellectual property protection; real estate matters; charitable trust planning; tax and wealth preservation planning. We also counsel clients with regard to creating, launching and investing in cable networks; acquisition and licensing of online and mobile content and technology assets; new media and multi-platform distribution agreements; M&A transactions and financings; television programming agreements; and sponsorship and marketing arrangements.

Athlete Representation

The Sports Entertainment Group at Kelley Drye provides professional athletes with a full complement of legal services, including negotiating athlete contracts and endorsement arrangements, preparing estate planning and other family-law related documents, protecting and licensing athlete intellectual property rights, advising on tax and charitable trusts, evaluating business proposals and providing real estate counsel. By utilizing a comprehensive approach to assisting our professional athlete clients, The Sports Entertainment Group at Kelley Drye distinguishes itself from traditional sports agencies that represent athletes solely in connection with team contract negotiations, while referring other legal work to outside lawyers or firms.

The Sports Entertainment Group at Kelley Drye has full-time NFLPA and NBPA-certified player agent attorneys and other professionals dedicated solely to athlete representation. Representative clients of the athlete representation practice include Antoine Bethea of the Indianapolis Colts, Matt Forté of the Chicago Bears, Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Kendall Langford of the St. Louis Rams, as well as IBF junior welterweight boxing champion, Lamont Peterson.

Media/Intellectual Property Protection and Licensing

Our clients benefit from the significant media, licensing, transactional and intellectual property experience of attorneys across the Kelley Drye network. These attorneys have worked on a myriad of related content, trademark, sponsorship, publicity and technology development, licensing and procurement agreements. Our range of experience includes, but is not limited to, television programming agreements for major insurance and spirits brands, co-branded license agreements for sports drink manufacturers, brand ambassador agreements for major fashion retailers, and content distribution and trademark agreements for a major pharmaceutical company.

In addition, our practice has significant experience representing sponsors of athletes, teams and leagues at virtually all levels, ranging from category deals with the NFL, NCAA, NASCAR Indy Car and U.S. Soccer to local team sponsorships with MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL and MLS teams and players. Additionally, we have negotiated and activated Olympic sponsorships. The Sports Entertainment Group also represents its athlete clients in connection with their licensing, endorsement and sponsorship arrangements. For example, representative projects include a trademark and publicity license agreement with a major manufacturer of sports- and lifestyle-related clothing.

Additionally, we have significant experience handling projects involving online, new media, mobile and other emerging digital distribution platforms. Such projects include negotiating sponsored content syndication agreements for retailer and travel brands, mobile apps integration and compliance review, and managing use of user-generated content and promotional campaigns in social media.

Wealth Preservation Planning

The Sports Entertainment Group draws on the strength of the wealth preservation experience of attorneys in the firm’s tax and private clients practice groups. These attorneys have significant experience in preparing wills, trusts, private foundation documents and other documents designed to assist in wealth preservation and inter-generational wealth transfer for our professional athlete and other high net worth clients. We also provide personal tax planning services, including the transfer of wealth through gift and estate planning, asset protection and the restructuring of business interests. 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.

Charitable Trust Planning

The Sports Entertainment Group 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. 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 communities. Accordingly, the charitable trust lawyers in The Sports Entertainment Group 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 sports communities. Whether through annual youth camps, holiday food-drives, or by adopting local youth or high school teams, our athlete clients 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.

Tax Planning

The tax lawyers and other tax practitioners working as part of The Sports Entertainment Group have a comprehensive, diverse national practice in federal, state and local tax matters. These professionals have experience in tax and financial accounting issues, especially as they relate to tax planning, audits, appeals and state and local taxes. Because of certain state and 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.

Real Estate

The Sports Entertainment Group also counsels our athlete clients in various real estate matters. Whether they are purchasing their principal residence, vacation home, or investment properties, our athlete clients have seasoned real estate counsel at their disposal. 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.

In addition to professional athletes, our real estate clients include other high-net-worth individuals, institutions, private and public companies and foundations. 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. These clients are often 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.

Mergers & Acquisitions

The Sports Entertainment Group at Kelley Drye leverages the firm’s knowledge of sports industries and the experience of members of the firm’s business transactions & corporate practice group to offer “one-stop shopping” for legal services for sports-related merger and acquisition projects and financings. The firm utilizes a multi-disciplinary approach, drawing on the knowledge and experience of the attorneys in the firm’s corporate, finance, tax, antitrust, labor, employee benefits, real estate and advertising and marketing groups, to handle all aspects of transactional projects. We have also assisted clients in securing senior bank financing, subordinated financing and equity-linked financing to fund acquisitions and ongoing operations.


Litigation services are also available to our sports clients. Known for effectively resolving challenging cases, Kelley Drye’s litigation attorneys have long been highly-regarded by leading companies around the world. 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.

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November 2015


Commercial Litigation in New York State Courts, Fourth Edition (2015)


April 15, 2016

Life’s Perspective From the Player, Coach and Counsel

University of California - Berkeley Law’s Sport and Law Conference

Additional Resources