Gregg Clifton Joins Sports Law Expert Podcast to Discuss Career and 2024 Trends

Phoenix, Ariz. (February 27, 2024) - Arizona Partner and Chair of Lewis Brisbois' Collegiate & Professional Sports Law Practice Gregg E. Clifton recently spoke on Hackney Publications' Sports Law Expert podcast about his legal career and sports litigation trends for 2024. 

On the podcast, Mr. Clifton related to host Holt Hackney that he became a sports lawyer because he "always thought it would be wonderful to try and be able to combine my love of sports with a career."

"In fact, when I was younger, the only way to really do that was to try and be an agent," he said. "I always thought that being an attorney - and I was advised of this by several people - was probably a very good way of having some credibility to get into the agent space, because of the knowledge and skills you would acquire by going to law school."

Mr. Clifton said his "big break" came in law school when he secured an internship with the marketing department of the New Jersey Nets, now the Brooklyn Nets.

"My first job in sports was literally helping the NJ Nets mascot in and out of its uniform," he recalled.

Through the Nets internship, Mr. Clifton said, he met the then-general counsel of the Meadowlands sports complex. He became the general counsel's law clerk for his second summer of law school, and entire third year.

"He was the first person who really guided me and gave me some direction about law and sports, and the application of law in general to the sports business," he said.

After law school, Mr. Clifton spent years as an agent, which he described as rewarding work. He said that being an attorney allowed him to offer a broader range of insights to his athlete clients.

"There are so many nuances to the practice of representing an athlete that I really think athletes need someone with a broader-based level of skills, or certainly within a firm that has a broader-based level of skills, that can help them handle a number of issues that arise," he said.

Mr. Clifton said that he made the move to Lewis Brisbois from labor and employment firm Jackson Lewis due to Lewis Brisbois' large array of practice areas.

"That's one of the great things that Lewis Brisbois has given me an opportunity to do: to retain all of my existing clients that I had previously - the colleges, the universities, the agencies, and some of the corporate teams - and to be able to potentially offer them a cafeteria plan of services, where my firm has expertise in all the different areas," he said. 

Mr. Clifton predicted that 2024 will be a "strong year for litigation when it comes to college sports," noting that there are many pending cases that focus on issues ranging from the extent of college athletes' name, image, and likeness (NIL) rights to whether student athletes should be considered employees of their respective schools.

"We have this myriad of issues. Unfortunately, there might be some interim decisions that happen in the next year, but those will not be finalized based on appeals until well into 2025," he explained. "So it is going to be a year of having a lot of unrest and uncertainty … unless Congress acts, and most people don't think that Congress is going to act here in 2024, with it being a presidential election year."

Mr. Clifton is the chair of Lewis Brisbois' Collegiate & Professional Sports Law Practice and a member of the firm's Entertainment, Media & Sports and Labor & Employment Practices. He has extensive experience in the collegiate and professional sports world and has advised numerous professional franchises on a range of labor and employment issues, including Title III ADA regulatory compliance and wage and hour issues. Mr. Clifton is also an editor of The Official Review, Lewis Brisbois’ sports law blog.          

List to the full podcast here

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