The salary haggling over Oakland Athletics pitcher Sonny Gray and Raiders quarterback Derek Carr echoing at Tulane Law School in January wasn’t about favorite players or fantasy teams. It was the focus of signature sports law competitions designed to improve students’ research, writing, critical thinking, organizational and oral advocacy skills.
Tulane’s Sports Law Program, which uses the backdrop of a highly popular industry to teach complex legal areas — including antitrust, intellectual property and labor law — is getting a chance to expand on its leadership in studying cutting-edge issues.
Professor Gabe Feldman, who has been instrumental in developing the nation’s premier sports law program, has been named Tulane Law’s inaugural Sher Garner Faculty Scholar. The award is funded through an endowed gift from from attorneys Leopold Z. Sher (A&S ’74, L ’76) and James M. Garner (E ’86, L ’89) and aims to help faculty members bring their research before public audiences.
As the face of the Tulane Sports Law Program, Feldman already has a national following and is a sought-after commentator on issues such as player discipline issues in pro sports, college athletes' rights and the potential legalization of sports gambling. (As @SportsLawGuy, he has 41,600 Twitter followers.) He said the award provides “a tremendous opportunity for practitioners, academics and Tulane sports law students to share ideas, learn from each other and inspire productive scholarship.”
Feldman said he hopes to create a think tank of sports law experts to focus on a range of pressing issues, including health and safety from youth sports through the professional level; intellectual property questions raised by new platforms for broadcasting games; concerns stemming from wearable technology used during games and practices; use of fans’ data collected when they attend events or watch online.
“New and emerging technologies are allowing consumers to view games in ways they never could have imagined 10 years ago and raising legal issues they couldn’t have anticipated five years ago,” he said. And the financial support “will create unique opportunities to engage our students with experts in the field to explore these issues.”
Sher and Garner, who co-founded the Sher Garner Cahill Richter Klein & Hilbert firm, said they're excited about having Feldman as the first recipient of the award.
“We attribute a great deal of our success to our Tulane education,“ Garner said, and the fund “helps support an even higher level of education at Tulane“ by fostering faculty scholarship.
The Sher Garner Faculty Scholar Endowed Fund is the latest among several major gifts spearheaded by Sher and Garner. They established the Sher Garner scholarship in 2012 and endowed the Sher Garner Fund for the Advancement of Commercial Law in 2015.
Dean David Meyer credited the duo with helping to propel the success of both Tulane Law faculty and students.
“The Sher Garner Faculty Scholar position is not only an honor but provides resources to enable the holder to engage the public through his or her scholarship while also bringing additional visibility to Tulane Law School,” Meyer said.
He noted that Sher and Garner are also contributing directly to students as members of Tulane’s adjunct faculty. Garner teaches a course in Appellate Advocacy, and Sher is teaching a new course in Advanced Contract Drafting.
Sher said they consider Feldman “an excellent professor who surely will do a great job.“
He joined the Tulane Law faculty in 2005 after nearly five years as an associate with Williams & Connolly in Washington, D.C. In addition to directing the sports law program, he is Tulane University’s associate provost for NCAA compliance. Feldman was named the Paul and Abram B. Barron Associate Professor of Law in 2015 and received a university-wide President’s Award for Graduate and Professional Teaching in 2013. He is editor of The Sports Lawyers Journal, a law journal devoted to the study of sports law, and The Sports Lawyer, a monthly online newsletter, and director of publications for the Sports Lawyers Association. He also co-authored of one of the leading sports law casebooks in the country.
In 2016, he presented an invited white paper to the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics proposing a model that would allow student-athletes to receive compensation for the use of their name, image and likeness.
Feldman was instrumental in creating Tulane’s National Baseball Arbitration Competition, an oral advocacy tournament and networking opportunity run by sports law students and judged by lawyers, agents and pro baseball executives. The event draws law school teams from across the U.S. and participants from Canada, as do a similar Professional Football Negotiation Competition started three years ago and a sports-themed Mardi Gras moot court invitational now in its 22nd year.
The program also gives students a growing array of avenues for interning and networking in a competitive industry whose popularity and revenues are exploding as technology advances at breakneck speed.
“It’s increasingly important to have quality lawyers to help figure out how a largely static set of laws applies to a rapidly evolving industry,” Feldman said. Even if students don’t intend to practice in that field, he said, “sports law is a terrific vehicle for studying the underlying areas of law.”
Garner said that “Sports law is a central and important part of our society and city. Having a recognized scholar like Gabe further this area of law puts Tulane into the center of a burgeoning area of law that everyone reads about every day in the news.”
Sher added: “Being Tulane sports season ticket holders and die-hard Saints and Pelicans fans makes this area of law even more important to us.”