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Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of talking with Mike Engle (@EngleLaw29). As an introductory matter, Mr.Engle received his undergraduate degree in music from McGill University, which is located in Montreal, Canada. This past December, he graduated with a joint JD/MBA degree from HofstraLaw School. Below are the topics that Mike and I discussed during our extensive conversation. It is also worth noting that Mike shared several knowledgeable anecdotes with me, which are conveniently labeled.

Frequently reading Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann during his younger years:

“The same way any guitarist might tell you that Jimi Hendrix is an influence, Michael McCann has been an influence of mine for a very long time. Reading his stuff on Sports Illustrated, that’s timely news that has to do with sports. I always loved reading McCann because if McCann ever had something to write, I always looked at it as a reminder that athletes are not above the law; athletes are citizens, too. If you’re in America, the laws are going to apply to you.”

“He broke it down in a way that a high school student [like myself at the time] can learn something about the law and know exactly what is going on.”

Law School Experience, Academic Emphases, and the Intersection of Labor & Employment and Sports:

“When I got into law school, I did not have my heart particularly set on any one direction … After the first year of law school writing competition, I found myself on the Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal and that is actually where the first thought in my head came about, ‘Hey, I could be Michael McCann. I could do what he did.'” (Knowledgable Anecdote #1: McCann was the Editor-in-Chief of the University of Virginia Sports and Entertainment Law Journal).

“[When] I got placed on the Labor & Employment Law Journal, I thought, ‘This is a great excuse to write about sports.’ The Journal actually mandates that if you’re on the journal, you have to take courses in the subject matter. At the end of the day, you can say that I came to labor and employment [law] for the sports and that I hope to stay in labor and employment for everything else.”

“I realize that I’m playing long-term game here — you have to be very lucky and have some sweet connections to get into sports law right away, it’s all about being in the right place at the right time.” (Knowledgeable Anecdote #2: Drew Rosenhaus got his start as a sports agent by being friends with Ray Lewis at the University of Miami-Florida). 

“If I ever make the big leagues, I’m not going to be wearing a uniform. And if I am going to be wearing a uniform, it was because I brought a jersey at the gift shop and am in the stands. If I really truly make the big leagues, I’m going to be wearing a suit and tie with a name badge … It might not happen today or tomorrow, but the big thing about sports law is that you can’t avoid labor and employment … If you were to draw a Venn Diagram, you would almost have one circle literally on top of the same circle.”

Sports Law as a Stand-Alone Area of Law: 

“I actually hope that it doesn’t become its own [type of law]. I am really drawn to how, in sports law and in labor and employment also, you can see so many different [interrelated topics]. I think the 1L curriculum makes the ‘silos image’ really stand out in people’s mind … I think that is a disservice because problems are complicated.”

“I, personally, love being able to expect everything and anything and especially to expect the unexpected. If we think about sports law, you can have a contract problem on the individual level; you can have a collective bargaining agreement; you can have an occasional criminal problem; you can have an antitrust problem … If you even just want to think among sports, there’s so much diversity there, too.” (Knowledgeable Anecdote #3: Baseball is the lone professional league that is not bound by antitrust law. In fact, Carolina Academic Press recently a baseball-specific casebook). 

Mike’s Law Review Article, The No-Fantasy League: Why the National Football League Should Ban Its Players From Managing Personal Fantasy Football Teams11 DePaul J. Sports L. & Contemp. Probs. 59 (2015):

“I think you would get this answer from any writer, especially me: Pieces are products of the right place at the right time. I’ve been fortunate enough to have my eyes and ears open, and I see things that need to be written about … and you just go for it.” (Knowledgable Anecdote #4: Mike also was published in 32 Hofstra Lab. & Emp. L.J. 177 (2014)). 

“In the case of Larry Donnell (the New York Giants tight end featured in the article), I’m forever grateful that he opened his big, fat mouth and talked about how he has a fantasy team, starting (then-San Francisco tight end) Vernon Davis instead of himself … If that is not a potential conflict of interest that smells like gambling, then I have no idea what is.”

Daily Fantasy Sports and its Future

“I do think that the federal government needs to act and make some clarifications as soon as possible. The Uniform Internet and Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) made season-long fantasy legal … because Congress said so. At that point, I can guarantee that Congress had no idea that daily fantasy could ever be a thing.”

“In the event that daily fantasy is not covered (by the UIGEA), then daily fantasy is either gambling, which probably presents a problem for the states, or it’s a future bill that Congress can write, ‘We think that season-long fantasy is OK and, now, we want to make daily fantasy OK.'”

“On the level of the professional leagues, it’s pretty clear to me why the leagues are in favor of the daily fantasy; daily fantasy is an excuse for fans to be engaged with the content on a weekly basis and also on a league-wide basis. I have never done fantasy, I don’t think I can do fantasy because I am too loyal to my teams. I hate every sports team that comes out of Boston. If I draft a fantasy team, I don’t want to root for any Boston Red Sox or New England Patriots (player). If I refuse to draft a Boston player, then I am sabotaging my fantasy team because I can’t have Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski or any of those guys … But, I know that I am an unheard of minority of sports fans … Fantasy is an incentive to watch the games on television, buy NFL Sunday Ticket on DirectTV, so it’s totally obvious why the professional leagues want daily fantasy to be legal.”

Due Diligence Done by Professional Sports Leagues, re: Daily Fantasy Sports

“I look at the situation and it just cries out to me that there is no other possible conclusion other than everybody failed to do their due diligence … Let’s understand the spectrum — season-long fantasy is OK because, in part, it is a season-long commitment and you’re going to be playing over months … On the other end of the spectrum, you go to Las Vegas and place one bet, that’s gambling because anything can happen on any particular day. When it comes to Fan Duel, DraftKings and the leagues, (the latter) are blinded with tunnel vision; they see money because they see more people interested in the teams and players. Meanwhile, I see analogies in society right now — we have DraftKings and FanDuel, and we also have Uber and Lyft, who are going against the taxi cab companies. When you think about (all of those), their strategy is to get big, get famous, get a fan base, and then demand that the politicians make you legal because you think you’re special.”

“I find it troubling when any business has the audacity to act now and ask the questions later, or ask for forgiveness, not ask for permission … At the end of the day, it has to be true that the due diligence failed. So many questions needed to be asked, and they were not asked.”

Knowledgable Anecdote #5, which Mike shared with me via Twitter: 

Knowledgeable Anecdote #6: While our discussion regarding the lawsuit filed by former head coach Steve Sarkisian against the University of Southern California (USC) was not published, Mike talked with Law and Batting Order about that specific topic, as well as other labor & employment law topics in sports. USC answered that complaint recently

In closing, Mike will take the New York Bar exam in February and, shortly thereafter, begin seeking employment in labor & employment, sports, or elsewhere. The Marquette University Law School (MULS) Sports Law Society Blog thanks Mike for taking the time to talk with us, and we wish him the best of luck going forward.

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