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NFL players and legal experts discuss the future of athlete empowerment at Cooley Law School

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Howard Soifer Memorial Lecture in Sports and Entertainment Law

Florida Bar member Steven Fantetti, speaks at Cooley Law School’s 13th annual Howard Soifer Memorial Lecture in Sports and Entertainment Law at its Tampa Bay campus. He is pictured with Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman William Gholston, center, and running back Rachaad White.

Cooley Law School hosted Tampa Bay Buccaneers players William Gholston and Rachaad White during the 13th annual Howard Soifer Memorial Lecture in Sports and Entertainment Law at its Tampa Bay campus on May 21.

Gholston, a former All-Big Ten Player for Michigan State University, and White, who played football at Arizona State University, joined Steven Fantetti, a Cooley graduate and the president and founder of Athlete Empowerment Agency, as well as the owner of Fantetti Legal, as featured speakers during the event. They spoke about “Athlete Empowerment and the Ever-Changing Landscape of the Intersection of Business and Sports,” as well as how NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) has affected collegiate and professional athletes and athletic programs, and the potential for athlete unionization.

“What NIL has done is it’s not only allowing athletes to have more power or empowerment in sports and be able to monetize, but it’s also led to issues that should have been held probably years ago that now have to be handled and we can’t ignore them because they’re coming,” said Fantetti. “There’s no roadmap … but when minds come together, you can see that there’s ideas and there’s inferences that can be made based on what’s going on today that can help hopefully bridge the gap and find a better solution.”

White added: “When I got to Arizona State and the City of Phoenix, I became a household name. It would have been nice at the time to get paid for the publicity I brought to the school. I don’t have a problem with students getting paid for it. Not everybody can make it to the NFL.”

Gholston shared the main reason he played football in college was to escape poverty. He said if he had the opportunity to receive NIL money, he would have gained additional opportunities for his college education.

“Have NCAA pay for semi-legal business education and training and we can get credit for that since our schedules are crazy enough as it is and we got to take all the other classes on top of playing,” said Gholston. “Let’s get some of this real-world experience and you guys pay for it. We’ll get credit for it, and we’re going to use it in the real world, whether we go professional or not, and we can use it in real time while we’re in college. Athletes being paid, maybe that’s the route. Because some of these other things just seem really hard or they’re not capable of being done right now.”

The Howard Soifer Memorial Lecture is held annually to celebrate the memory of Howard Soifer, a 1977 graduate of Cooley Law School, along with his passion for sports and his legacy as an outstanding attorney, educator, mentor, and colleague. Soifer, who passed away in 2003, was an avid sports fan and represented several prominent professional athletes during his career.

“Howard truly loved practicing law and representing these young professional athletes as their attorney,” Howard’s wife, Sandy Soifer, said during her welcome remarks. “It was always about building relationships that would help to strengthen their lives in the future. He was passionate about life and he approached his legal career with the same enthusiasm. My children and I felt that a lecture in sports and entertainment law at Cooley would be a wonderful way to remember Howard.”

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