Who Knew?: Getting in the Game

Professional Sports Law course teaches students how to tackle legal challenges that arise in the sporting world

Monday, November 29, 2021

By Patrick Everson

In a city suddenly bursting at the seams with major league franchises, it makes perfect sense that the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law would want to keep up with the action. After all, just as legal matters intersect with countless other spheres, they also intersect with sports.

So, during the 2021 spring semester, the law school debuted its Professional Sports Law course, and it went right to the source for the instructor: Peter Sadowski, executive vice president for the Vegas Golden Knights. Sadowski says the course is a natural fit given the city’s growing presence as a sports destination.

“Las Vegas no longer is just the entertainment capital of the world; it’s becoming the sports and entertainment capital of the world. People are beginning to realize that it’s a tremendous market for all sports,” Sadowski says. “Now, we’ve got the Golden Knights and Silver Knights [Henderson’s new minor league hockey team], the Raiders, the WNBA’s Aces, and minor league baseball with the Aviators. There’s also interest in Major League Soccer, and no doubt, the NBA will one day come to Las Vegas. Plus, thousands of kids are involved in sports.”

Sadowski says the course’s primary objective is to provide UNLV Boyd Law students a better understanding of how law interfaces with sports, the many legal issues that arise in the sports space, and what it takes to be a lawyer in that arena. Guest lecturers appeared from a variety of professional teams and leagues—including the Golden Knights and Raiders, who were eager to provide their expertise—as well as members of Olympic committees and arena operators.

“It’s giving students a look at real-life, practical experience in those areas,” says Sadowski, who was born and raised in Poland and who immigrated to the U.S. when he was 14. “We covered all sorts of sports and had guest speakers from all over the world discuss their experiences and the issues which come up that require legal analysis or legal counsel.

“A lot of it dealt with the United States, but a lot of it also dealt with sports around the world, because sports is a global market. For example, we had a person who runs sports clinics in underdeveloped countries talking about how to deal with governments and form co-ops with local tribes to allow girls to participate in sports.”

Although his course is titled Professional Sports Law, Sadowski repeatedly emphasized that parts of the curriculum apply to all levels, even youth leagues.

“How do you deal with trainers, how to secure sponsors, the various steps required to secure proper coaching for kids—all of that applies to the entire community, not just professional sports,” Sadowski says. “There’s a relationship between kids and coaches, and parents and coaches. There’s also a relationship between teams/leagues and suppliers/sponsors. That’s all governed by rules that are based in law.”

With such a fertile field of topics and easy access to guest speakers who are sports-law experts, Sadowski says he’s eager to teach the course again soon.

“In some of the lectures, I was quite surprised at the willingness of speakers to talk about really confidential topics. There was a cone of silence that enabled them to discuss things you really wouldn’t expect to hear,” he says. “My final exam asked students to point out the deficiencies in the course and give me ideas for improvement. I’d like to build on what we were able to do through offering this course virtually. It enabled us to present guest lecturers from China and Europe. I’d like to continue taking advantage of that technology.”