The following is a guest contribution from Robert DiMarco. Robert is a former Division I (FCS) fullback for Jacksonville University Dolphins football. He majored in political science and minored English and writing, and is an aspiring law school student and sport attorney. Robert currently serves as an Adjunct Instructor for Indian River State College tutoring student in English and writing.
Leonard Brown Jr. is the product of an inner-city Philadelphia public school whose story of perseverance and faith leveraged the opportunity to become Chief Legal Officer of PGA TOUR, Inc. Though he modestly contributes much of his success to his ability to persevere, his faith has carried him throughout his career as a Penn State football player, UPENN Law graduate and successful sport lawyer. His laundry-list of success in the sports world is highlighted with a diverse background as an attorney for the venerable Washington, D.C., law firm Williams and Connolly; counsel for the Atlanta Braves and Turner Sports; and now as Chief Legal Officer of the PGA TOUR.
Brown admits that the inner-city Philadelphia public school system made it difficult to get recruited to play football in college, but his faith helped provide him with the appropriate mindset to earn a spot on the Penn State football team as a junior. His faith continued to carry him through the University of Pennsylvania, College of Law and after graduation, as a clerk under Chief Federal Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, James T. Giles. Brown ascribed this experience as being the perfect foundation to his legal career in that it was the ultimate legal valor that a young attorney can have. It aided his ability to look at a certain issue and take a distinctive approach in evaluating the issue in order to reach a well-thought decision. It changed his methodology when tackling situations from a legal standpoint and, most notably, it empowered him with the skills to earn a position with D.C. powerhouse, Williams and Connelly where he assisted in the representation of athletes such as Grant Hill, Tim Duncan, Shane Battier, Dominique Dawes, and Ray Allen among others.
During his tenure at Williams and Connolly, Brown collaborated with influential sport attorneys, Lon Babby (President of Basketball Operations for Phoenix Suns), Jim Tanner (President, Tandem Sports and Entertainment), and Damon Jones (Senior Vice President, General Counsel for Washington Nationals). Collectively they implemented a model for athlete representation that veered away from the traditional agent fee-structure of charging a percentage of a client’s contract value. The genesis of their sports law practice was handled no differently than the way one would represent a typical client or corporation in such that they charged their clients by the hour. As Brown stated, “It was a compelling model for athletes who really thought through their situation and took the global approach in their business endeavors.”
After his stint with Williams and Connolly, Brown served as counsel to the Atlanta Braves and Turner Sports’ properties—PGA, NASCAR, and the NBA on TNT—where his areas of practice included salary arbitration, stadium and player operations, sponsorship and marketing deals, vendor and supplier agreements, and related team and television operations matters. Brown emphasized the impact of his tenure with the Braves and Turner Sports as pivotal experience in his legal career. “it was one of the most fun jobs I have ever had in part that it gave me the best of both worlds [sports and the law]. It helped me appreciate my job and role in the industry and it provided me with essential business-oriented skills that are critical to succeeding in the sports world.”
Shortly before Turner sold the Braves, Brown joined the PGA TOUR and attributed his faith again as being a major factor in deciding to leave his colleagues and taking a step back, so he could take two steps forward. “Thankfully, it worked out because I was able to quickly move up into the position as Chief Legal Officer. It was undoubtedly divine providence because if I didn’t trust that God would put me in the place where He felt I belonged, I’m not sure that I would be where I am today.”
In his all-encompassing role with the PGA TOUR, Brown is responsible for legal matters impacting the TOUR, including Television, Tournament Affairs; Domestic and International Trademark Law, Copyright Law, Computer Law, Internet law, Licensing and Merchandising Corporation Law, litigation. Brown also serves on the executive committee which discusses business strategies, marketing platforms, TOUR strategies, and global plans. He acknowledges his previous work experience as playing a pivotal role in his business side as an in-house lawyer. “You cannot ‘over-lawyer’ things. It is crucial to have an understanding of the business aspect of sports in regard to your client’s business goals. You have to be flexible and cannot be in the department of no—if not, the perception will be that you do not understand the business.”
For Brown, his track record of success in the demanding sports law field has continually been a reflection of his perseverance and faith.
“I truly believe that I’m blessed to be here and the biggest factor of it all is having faith. Anyone that has the opportunity to do what I do and work in the sports world [doing what they love] is blessed. You’re going to hear a lot of ‘No’ before you hear one ‘Yes’. Your persistence and willingness to do anything to get your foot in the door, and put yourself in an advantageous position [to reach your ultimate goal] is vital. You cannot be afraid to reach out to people, network, and ask for some help. If you really want to venture off into this competitive field, you have to do everything with passion, adapt through adversity, be persistent, and have faith on your journey.”