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Students’ Sports Law White Papers Earn Recognition

September 18, 2013

Sam Ehrlich and Jonathan Stahler

The mission of the Center for Sports Law and Policy is “To integrate Thomas Jefferson School of Law with, and prepare its students for employment in, the growing sports industry.” TJSL students Jonathan Stahler (3L) and Sam Ehrlich (3L) are helping to fulfill that mission with the white papers they wrote for two of Center Director and Professor Rodney K. Smith’s sports law classes.

Turns out both papers are already helping pave the way for Stahler and Ehrlich to have promising careers in sports law. Stahler’s paper is going to be published in a noteworthy academic journal and Ehrlich’s paper has earned a high ranking in a national competition.

A white paper is a detailed, authoritative report in which students are tasked to identify a problem, examine the best practices for solving the problem and present an efficient plan for solving that problem. This goes along with the Center for Sports Law and Policy’s brand, which is to prepare Sports Law & Policy Fellows like Stahler and Ehrlich to creatively solve problems, especially in a rapidly evolving industry like sports law.

And, as Professor Smith has emphasized, a white paper tells an employer that this student knows “how to make things happen” and, in turn, that student becomes a much more attractive candidate for employment in the sports industry.

Stahler’s paper is titled “Creating an Equitable Playing Field: Vital Protections for Male Athletes in Revenue Generating Sports who are Predominantly African-American.” It was written for Professor Smith’s Race & Gender in Sports Law class. The problem identified is the following: student-athletes participating in revenue-generating sports, who are predominantly male African-Americans, are exploited and treated unfairly on campus during both their collegiate careers and after college. Moreover, they are not informed on the importance of life skills, finance and education overall for their futures, despite the few that do graduate. Male African-Americans who participate in football and men’s basketball have helped fund the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), individual institutions and many less-publicized sports, while being treated essentially as indentured servants.

According to Stahler, as is similar to California Senate Bill 1525, male student-athletes, who are primarily African-American, and participate in revenue-generating sports, need to be protected and compensated efficiently.

“I proposed,” says Stahler, “that they should be provided with the following benefits: (1) fair compensation in the form of a guaranteed annual “cost-of-attendance” stipend, with the option to keep money in a secure bank account, that can be accessed during school; (2) a guaranteed athletic/financial aid scholarship, ensuring student-athletes the ability to stay in school and receive an education; and (3) financial and life skills training through required courses during their collegiate careers in order to prepare them for their post-collegiate careers in any profession, particularly professional sports.”

He submitted his article to various sport and entertainment law journals across the country for publication. After weighing offers, he has recently signed a publication agreement to have his article published in the Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law Sports and Entertainment Law Journal.

Ehrlich wrote a paper titled “With Many Advisors They Succeed: Fixing Baseball Amateurism in the Post-Oliver NCAA” for Professor Smith’s Law of Amateur Sports class. He focused on the issues surrounding the amateurism requirement inherent in the NCAA’s core regulations, which prohibit college athletes from doing anything related to professional sports, including and especially consulting agents about the draft process.

“The biggest problem is that the baseball draft process is significantly different from other sports because you need not declare for the draft to be drafted by a professional team,” said Ehrlich. “A player can choose to not sign and stay in college, but given the above restrictions, if you consult with an agent or lawyer during negotiations with professional teams, you are at a high risk of being suspended by the NCAA.”

The solution proposed by Ehrlich involves setting up a Draft Advisory Board for baseball that would hire young sports professionals and former minor league athletes as advisors. These advisors would be able to provide these student-athletes with the advice and counsel they need to get through the draft process without being taken advantage of by professional teams at a low or nonexistent cost, and without potentially compromising their future NCAA eligibility.

Ehrlich submitted a shortened version of this paper to the Sports Lawyers Association’s Inaugural Student Writing Competition and learned in May that he was selected as one of the competition’s three finalists. He flew to Atlanta in June for the SLA’s Annual Conference and had the opportunity to listen to various seminars and panel discussions about current legal issues in the sports industry. At the Friday luncheon, Ehrlich found out that he placed third in the competition and accepted a $1,500 award in front of more than 900 industry professionals.

The Center’s first white paper will be presented at the annual Sports Law Conference on Friday, September 20. Titled “Solving the Title IX Conundrum in an Equitable Manner: Starting Intercollegiate Women’s Football.” Lindsay Demerey ’13 and current TJSL student Erika Torrez assisted with that paper and will be among the panelists at the conference. Visit the conference page.