Sports Law

M&S attorneys have a long and robust history of helping make the sports industry a more equitable and just place to work and play.

On September 30, 2002, Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. and M&S co-founder Cyrus Mehri issued a ground-breaking report—“Black Coaches in the National Football League: Superior Performance, Inferior Opportunities”—revealing that black NFL head coaches were held to a higher standard than their white counterparts, and were consequently denied a fair chance to compete for head coaching jobs.

The report opened the NFL’s eyes to its teams’ unfair hiring processes. Within two months, the League had formed a diversity committee, headed by Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, and announced a diversity plan, which included the requirement that each team interview at least one minority candidate prior to selecting a head coach.  The requirement came to be known as the Rooney Rule, and it changed the face of head coaching in the NFL.

As the NFL was implementing the Rooney Rule, Cyrus Mehri—along with NFL veterans John Wooten and Kellen Winslow—formed the Fritz Pollard Alliance, an affinity group of NFL minority coaches, scouts and front office personnel. Since then, the FPA has worked with the NFL to develop hiring guidelines for front office and scouting positions as well as talent development programs.  The FPA’s work on the use of the Rooney Rule has inspired other organizations inside and outside of the United States to work to level the playing field.

Separate from the Fritz Pollard Alliance, Mr. Mehri teamed up with noted industrial psychologists Harold Goldstein and Ken Yusko to create the NFL Player Assessment Test (“NFL-PAT”) which allows players’ non-physical attributes to shine in the NFL player selection process. It has been used at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis since 2013.   The NFL-PAT has been validated as predictive of success on the gridiron and as a pioneering process that minimizes racial bias.  Read more about the work of Goldstein and Yusko, as well as the NFL-PAT, here.

American University Professor and M&S of counsel attorney N. Jeremi Duru is an active member of the national sports law community and has written extensively on both sports and employment law, including having co-authored Sports Law and Regulation: Cases, Materials, and Problems (4th ed.) (Wolters Kluwer) and The Business of Sports Agents (3d ed.) (University of Pennsylvania Press), and having authored Advancing the Ball: Race, Reformation, and the Quest for Equal Coaching Opportunity in the NFL (Oxford University Press).

Mehri and Duru currently represent the Fritz Pollard Alliance; together, they have advised the Professional Footballers Association in the United Kingdom (the UK’s soccer players union) in its efforts to increase diversity among managers in the UK soccer community.  The English National Team adopted a version of the NFL Rooney Rule.

In addition, M&S attorneys have represented sports executives in disputes with their clubs and student athletes in disputes with their universities.

M&S has fifteen years of experience working for fairness in the sports industry and has become a go-to firm for sports professionals and organizations alike. Contact our attorneys today to arrange your strategy session.