Vikings legal counsel speaks on the NFL, new conduct policy
Friday afternoon I attended the 2007 Art, Entertainment & Sports Law Institute, prepared and hosted by the Minnesota CLE (Continuing Legal Education) and the Minnesota State Bar Associationâ€™s (MSBA) Art, Entertainment & Sports Law Section, in Minneapolis. (As a quick aside, most state bar associations have sections devoted to entertainment and sports law. There is also, of course, the Forum on the Entertainment and Sports Industries, run by the American Bar Association (ABA). I would highly recommend that agentsâ€”and even non-agents attorneys who may dabble in, or are just interested in, matters relating to entertainment and sports lawâ€”become members of such a group. For a relatively small annual fee, the member benefits and networking opportunities that will result could be priceless).
The speaker at Fridayâ€™s conference most pertinent to readers was Kevin Warren, Vice President of Operations and Legal Counsel to the Minnesota Vikings. Warren has spent eight seasons in the NFL, and three with the Vikings, where he is one of two people responsible for the teamâ€™s legal affairs, its charitable entity (the Viking Childrenâ€™s Fund) special projects, strategic planning, and for serving as the Vikingsâ€™ liaison with the NFL. Prior to his work with the Vikings, Warren spent the 2001-02 seasons with the Detroit Lions as Senior V.P. of Business Operations/General Counsel, and he worked from 1997-2001 with the St. Louis Rams where he served as V.P. of Player Programs/Football Legal Counsel and later V.P. of Football Administration. Interestingly enough, Warren got started in the sports industry as an agent, creating and running his own successful venture in Kansas City for several years, after first obtaining an MBA from Arizona St., and later a JD from Notre Dame. However, he shut down his operation after then-St. Louis coach Dick Vermeil, who previously had turned him away from the organization by telling him that he was â€œtoo qualifiedâ€ to work there, called him after two others turned down a position with the team at the last minute. Against the wishes and the advice of his family and friends, Warren accepted Vermeilâ€™s offer, though he made a point to make sure that each and every one of his clients was taken care of with new representation.
Warrenâ€™s speech primarily covered the state of the NFL. Pointing in part to the over $3 billion in television revenue, as well as the gameâ€™s international appeal (he mentioned there were over 500,000 ticket requests for this Octoberâ€™s game at Wembley in London between the Giants and the Dolphins), Warren was naturally quite enthralled by the leagueâ€™s current status, and optimistic about its future and potential continued growth. He also touched on NFL commissioner Roger Goodellâ€™s recently released personal conduct policy, which features, in part, longer suspensions and larger fines for individuals who violate the policy. Goodell has even said that teams themselves will be disciplined when any of their employeesâ€”from players, coaches, officials, owners to front-office personnelâ€”violate the league’s new policy. In response to an audience question, Warren affirmed that the NFLPA had to sign off on the new policy, even though it came subsequent to the leagueâ€™s last CBA negotiations. However, he reiterated the reports stating that the NFLPA, through its Executive Director Gene Upshaw, was completely on board with Goodell on the issue. Upshaw, in fact, was quoted as saying that â€œthese are steps that the commissioner needs to takeâ€¦â€ and Warren implied that indeed Upshaw and the NFLPA knew that the policy, though somewhat draconian, was ultimately in their best interests.
— Jason G. Wulterkens