From the Olympics to the collegiate level Paul Greene of Global Sports Advocates has seen his share of sports cases, representing elite athletes and governing bodies around the world. In a recent episode of SCI TV, Greene discusses major sports law issues including anti doping, Title IX liability, trademark and contract cases, and more with SCI Founder Joshua Gordon. Greene is recognized by Chambers USA and Super Lawyers as one of America’s leading sports lawyers.
Greene found his way into sports law after a decade in broadcasting and wanted to make a larger impact in the field. The athletes he represents often come to him in last ditch efforts to save a season or career, and emotions can run high.
One of his first cases involved an Olympic hopeful who was wrongly barred from the Games. “That’s what I like about these sports law cases, it’s how meaningful they are to the people you’re representing,” Greene said.
Since much of sports law takes place in the public eye, appropriate messaging can be more critical than in other areas of law to manage the impact on reputation.
Control the Message
“I always tell clients, no matter which side they are on, you have to control the message. You have to control how you disseminate information, how you speak, everything has to be disciplined and thought out.”
Doping cases attract special media attention, but many cases are more nuanced than the public is led to believe. Greene doesn’t have sympathy for the clear cut cases where athletes were intentionally cheating, but other situations are not so simple.
“Most people assume that every athlete that tests positive has culpability when that isn’t the case,” Greene said.
Proactive Approaches for Institutions
Sports law also encompases issues at the institutional level, and Greene works to help organizations and governing bodies approach emerging issues proactively.
In the collegiate world there can be uncertainty around the implications of Title IX, especially sections on sexual harassment and sexual assault. Green helps institutions make sure they have systems in place to protect themselves from the errant actions of students and employees.
“You can’t be indifferent. If you see something happen, if something gets reported, you have to jump on it right away, you have to take action, you have to be transparent, and you have to make sure the person’s rights are protected,” Greene says. “Institutions get in trouble when they don’t do things by the book. When you’re trying to just react, that’s generally a recipe for disaster.”
Greene thinks that the institutions getting it right are those that handle issues with outside assistance. People unconnected to an organization bring credibility in a time of crisis and can identify issues before they become major legal and media relations problems, which is more cost effective in the long run.
“People never want to spend money on lawyers unless they have to, but when you talk about doing things on the front end it’s always less expensive than doing things on the backend when everything blows up.”