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Lawyer takes on NCAA to unlock money for athletes

Jeff Kessler of Winston & Strawn to head up the first college sports-focused division of a major law firm.

Sports is a big business in the United States. The NFL, NBA and NHL generate billions of dollars in revenue, but so do collegiage games. College sports broadcasts rake in over $16 billion, according to Bloomberg, but the players themselves see little of that money. But now one attorney has his sights set on that cash and the rights of the little guys.

Jeff Kessler of Winston & Strawn, who has experience working with the NFL, has announced that he will head up the first college sports-focused division of a major law firm, intending to fight for the rights of players, coaches, schools and conferences, taking on the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

There have been many recent cases involving the NCAA, including a likeness rights suit brought against EA Sports, which has profited greatly using personal details of NCAA players. There is also the ongoing issue of player safety, as public knowledge of the risk of head injuries to players increases.

“The NCAA should stand up and take notice that Jeff is involved,” Bob Lanza, a former NBA players’ union general counsel who worked alongside Kessler, told Bloomberg. “I can’t think of anybody more qualified to start this type of department.”

Kessler has experience working with several major league sports, and brings a great deal of experience and skill to bear. There is a lot of money at stake in collegiate sports and, until now, no firm has devoted the time and resources to focus specifically on this area. But, with so many different areas – from player safety to payments and suspensions – there are a wealth of potential cases out there that Kessler’s unit can tackle. And perhaps he and his team will spur some real change in the NCAA.

Senior Editor and Community Manager

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Rich Steeves

Richard P. Steeves is Senior Editor and Community Manager of InsideCounsel magazine, where he covers the intellectual property and compliance beats. Rich earned a B.A....

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