United States: Sports Law Update - March 2017

In this edition of Herrick's Sports Law Update, we look into how last Wednesday's Supreme Court's "cheerleader uniform" ruling could affect the sports apparel industry. We also cover a few developments from our clients – D.C. United breaks ground on Audi Field; Venezia FC continues its remarkable run in Italian soccer; the New York Yankees get set for their 115th Opening Day; and Terence Crawford headlines a great night of Top Rank boxing at Newark's Prudential Center.

How Will Last Week's Supreme Court Decision in Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands Affect the Sports Apparel Industry?

By Barry Werbin

In my latest New York State Bar Association Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law blog post, I analyzed the Supreme Court's holding that "an artistic feature of a design of a useful article" – in this case cheerleader uniforms – "is eligible for copyright protection if the feature (1) can be perceived as a two- or three-dimensional work of art separate from the useful article, and (2) would qualify as a protectable pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work either on its own or in some other medium if imagined separately form the useful article." Read More »

D.C. United Breaks Ground on Audi Field

Major League Soccer's D.C. United recently broke ground on the club's new stadium, Audi Field, a state-of-the-art soccer stadium with an adjoining 500,000 square-foot mixed-use development. Herrick advised the club on Audi Field's construction financing and naming rights, so our partner Dan Etna got to don his official Black-and-Red club gear for the groundbreaking ceremony.

At the ceremony, D.C. United managing partner Jason Levien, MLS commissioner Don Garber, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and executives from Audi got the community pumped about the opportunity ahead. Levien said, "There's no better time in our nation's capital to build a house for soccer and to have all of our fans and everyone in this community unite." We're looking forward to Audi Field's inaugural match in 2018 - if you'd like to join us, here's a link to priority list registration for 2018 season tickets.

Venezia FC Continues its Remarkable Journey in Italian Soccer

Our client Venezia FC continues its remarkable journey back to Italy's Serie B league. As of this newsletter, VFC sits atop Lega Pro's Group B, with a 20-3-7 record (67 points), eight points ahead of second place Padova. With eight matches to go, VFC is poised for its second league promotion since the club was acquired by Joe Tacopina less than two years ago.

VFC is making some serious waves in international soccer – climbing the Italian league tables, bringing on Italian soccer hero Filippo Inzaghi as coach, and galvanizing the storied city's long dormant fan base. This March 21 Bleacher Report article, All Hail the 'Machine of War': Joe Tacopina's Romantic Vision for Venezia, is a great read if you're looking to get a flavor for the strabilante (amazing) things going on. You can also follow the action on VFC's Twitter and Snapchat feeds, or check out these videos:

Venezia coach Filippo Inzaghi destroys KICK's @heathpierce in a crossbar challenge.

Alexandre Geijo's amazing goal seals a late 1-0 win against Modena, and ignites the VFC crowd.


KICK chronicles Tacopina's zeal for soccer in Venice, and VFC's remarkable comeback against rival Parma.

Upcoming Championship Boxing Produced by Top Rank

We're helping our longtime client Top Rank produce two great nights of championship boxing. On April 22, WBO world featherweight champion Oscar Valdez will defend his belt against Miguel Marriaga at the Stubhub Center in Carson, California.

The fight will be live on pay-per-view, and available via digital distribution on TopRank.tv.

And on May 20, undefeated WBO/WBC junior welterweight champion Terence Crawford will headline a night of boxing at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. While Crawford's opponent has yet to be decided, we do know that the event will be broadcast on HBO, and it will also feature Top Rank's newest talent, Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson, making his professional debut before his hometown crowd.

Yankees Opening Day is on the Horizon

This year marks our 23rd season as legal counsel to the New York Yankees. Over that span we've advised the team and Yankee Global Enterprises in a wide range of matters, including the formation of the YES Network, the development of Yankee Stadium and the creation of New York City FC. But nothing gets us more excited than the crack of the bat on Opening Day. This year, the Yankees home opener (their 115th) is on April 10, against Tampa Bay. To whet your appetite for spring baseball, here are five of our favorite Yankees Opening Day facts and stats:

  • Derek Jeter has started the most Opening Days, with 17. The next most is 14, by Lou Gehrig.
  • This one is subjective, but Roger Maris might have had the best Opening Day in Yankees history. In 1960, Maris torched the Red Sox for 11 total bases – going 4 for 5 with two home runs, two doubles, a walk and four RBI.
  • In 1973, Ron Blomberg ushered in Opening Day by becoming the first-ever MLB designated hitter to take an at bat.
  • Dave Righetti claims the prize for being the only Yankee to win (1987), and save (1986) an Opening Day game.
  • Yankees first baseman Greg Bird has a hairless cat that's related to Mr. Bigglesworth from Austin Powers. Greg is poised to become the only player in Major League Baseball history, who has a hairless cat related to a movie star, to start on Opening Day.

Events and News

  • Irwin Kishner was recently named a member of the Advisory Board of the NHL Coaches' Association (NHLCA), the not-for-profit association that represents head coaches, assistant coaches and associate coaches in the National Hockey League.
  • On March 31, Irwin Kishner, Dan Etna and John Goldman will present a Lawline CLE course on sports content and distribution. They'll cover how leagues, teams, content distributors and advertisers are structuring media rights agreements in the age of OTT and social media, and the legal provisions and business issues that arise along the way. Lawyers in 16 states are eligible to receive 1 CLE credit.
  • On April 19, Irwin Kishner, Dan Etna and Eric Stabler will be attending CAA and SportsBusiness Journal's World Congress of Sports. At the conference, Irwin will participate in a panel discussion on regional sports networks, featuring Baltimore Orioles COO John Angelos, Evolution Media Capital partner Alan Gold, and NBC Sports Regional Networks president David Preschlack.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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