Don Jackson, Sports Attorney "The Sports Group" - Work in Sports Podcast

Sports Attorney Don Jackson helps break down some of the major ongoing legal issues in sports and adds perspective for anyone who wants to pursue a career in sports law. 

Hi everybody, I’m Brian Clapp, VP of Content and Engaged Learning for and this is the Work in Sports podcast... 

The summer months can provide quite a lull in the sports calendar - now before all you seamheads get on me, I know baseball is alive and kicking, but it’s a long season and these middle months can be a little… draining.

As I’ve admitted before I have sports ADD -- I want college bowl season, NFL playoffs, March Madness, spring training and a full slate of NBA and NHL games every night of the year...but my dream is yet to become a reality. 

Lucky us, this summer we had another event on the schedule that could draw our attention...the US Women's National Team competing in the World Cup. Huge global events like these bring out casual fans who likely wouldn’t watch a Tuesday night friendly against Norway, but will pack bars, sing songs, and wear the good old red white and blue with pride as our national team competes. 

I was glued. I have a young soccer-playing daughter, so to watch those games with her and see how she admired these gals and their compete level was awesome. A proud parenting moment, to see how she understood the calculus behind hard work, training and discipline leading to success and glory. Nothing is given. 

She also asked questions. Not just about formations and attack methodology - but about equal pay, and why the men get paid more than the women.

Uh oh -- some of you just got angry - some of you just thought to yourself, here we go, another lecture about equal pay! 

Well, I’ll spare you, no lecture involved. But I would like to add some perspective that I fear many people are missing. 

I see the same exact response from every person who has an issue with the equal pay debate. 

It’s some iteration of:

‘This is a business first and foremost. In the context of business, salaries of players are based on "viewership" numbers and attendance at the stadium. Nothing to do with gender. If and when the women can draw attendance numbers and viewership at par with the men, sponsorship and salaries would automatically follow. Supply and demand. if you draw large numbers, the paycheck gets bigger for both the owners and players regardless of gender.”

I lifted this from one of about 600 like it on a recent article. 

Like most people, this person made a lot of guesses and assumptions in their argument. 

What if I told you, according to NIKE the Womens’ national team home jersey is now the #1 soccer jersey, men’s or womens’s ever sold on Nike in one season.

What if I told you the women’s team contributed more than half of the revenue from games since fiscal 2016 -- and between 2016 to 2018 the women's games generated about $900,000 more revenue than the men’s games. 

Going back even earlier -- in the year following their 2015 World Cup win, women’s games generated $1.9 million more than the men’s games. 

Now, gross revenue — especially for games — isn’t everything. Matches are expensive to produce and players have to be paid, so games don’t always turn a profit for the federation. That said, in fiscal 2016 and 2017, the women’s team generated more cash than expenses, bringing in net revenue of $8 million and $1 million, respectively. The men’s team in fiscal 2015 and 2016 posted net revenue of $350,000 and $2.7 million, respectively.

This isn’t a lecture -- this is a lesson in facts. Sure, there is more nuance to be explored, there are subtleties in revenue reporting, that’s why we have a legal process deciding what is fair and what is not.

And that is true for just about every situation in sports. As much as I hate to even mention it, deflategate was a legal case. Colin Kaepernick became a legal case, Zion Williamson being sued for 100 million is a legal case, college athletes amateur status, sports gambling … all legal cases.

The lawyers so often decide the results we live with. High time I had a top sports attorney on the show. 

Don Jackson is a former Rhodes Scholarship candidate and collegiate pitcher, is a graduate of Alabama State University and the University of Virginia School of Law. In his decades of professional practice, Jackson has amassed a considerable professional resume and founded one of the more unique and diverse boutique sports firms in the country. 

Let’s hear from the man himself, here’s Don Jackson…


Questions for Sports Attorney Don Jackson:


1: You were a collegiate baseball player, a pitcher at Alabama State University, and then went to the University of Virginia School of Law -- why was going into Law the right choice for you, what drew you in this direction?

2: You’ve represented clients in the NFL, MLB, NBA, CFL, Women’s Pro soccer league and Olympians…how common are the leagues as you deal with them? Are they completely unique in the way they operate and are structured, or is there similarities you can pull from in dealing with each?  

3: Your boutique law firm -- the Sports Group -- aims to  add economic value to the activities of clients of the The Sports Group - that seems like the most basic human emotion, adding dollar signs to actions, but it can’t be that simple right or everyone would be doing it -- what’s the biggest challenge in trying to add economic value to your clients?

4: You’ve been in this side of the sports industry for a while now -- what character trait do you need to be successful in the legal world of sports?

5: What guidance do you have for undergraduate students who are interested in law school? Is there a certain focus they should have in their studies? Certain activities that can lead to the best experiences? 

6: Let’s discuss some legal situations that are ongoing in the sports world -- Zion Williamson enters the NBA after being the first overall pick in the NBA Draft, but its not without some controversy -- he’s being sued for 100 million dollars, for what amounts to switching from Prime Sports to do all of his marketing and endorsement deals to CAA. 

Is this a case of someone trying to get a piece of a rising star in the league, or does this case have merit and will Zion have something huge hanging over his head in his rookie year? 

7: As we mentioned earlier, you’ve represented women professional soccer players before so you must be keeping a close eye on the ongoing battle between U.S. women’s national team players and the U.S. Soccer Federation over pay equity and workplace dignity. 

In the end does this case end up with a Title IX type impact - where everything changes after this battle for equity in pay? 

8: Since 1906 the NCAA has been a non-profit organization stating they want their athletes to be “motivated primarily by education and by the physical, mental and social benefits to be derived,”

A lot has changed since 1906 - college athletes are motivated by more than just education and social benefits, and the colleges themselves benefit from athletes broader motivations.

In your view, are we on the precipice of a sea change in college amateurism,  or are we looking at more of the same moving forward for college athletes?

9: When fantasy sports was new and all the rage it was really good for sports organizations because more casual fans watched their games, stayed up with their players, and were engaged with their product than ever before. 

Now, sports betting is here. Do you think it will have the same effect and the teams themselves will embrace the opportunity? I see more casual sports fans turning into viewers and that has to be good for the teams themselves

10: I love digging into these topics and learning more about their depth -- thank you so much for your insight Don, we’ll finish up with this -- as you look back over your long and storied career in sports law -- do you have a particular case you are particularly proud of?

Listen in to this episode of the Work in Sports podcast to hear from Sports Attorney Don Jackson on these highly relevant sports topics

By Brian Clapp | July 24, 2019
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