College athletes like Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel could soon be represented by lawyers. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
A lawyer who helped bring free agency to the National Football League is set to focus on the unpaid athletes who generate more than $16 billion in college sports television contracts, reports Bloomberg.com.
According to the report, Jeff Kessler, a lawyer from New York-based Winston & Strawn is starting the first college-focused division at a major law firm to represent players, coaches, schools and conferences against what Kessler described as “the unbridled power and influence” of the NCAA.
Kessler, 59, has represented the interests of athletes ranging from Michael Jordan to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
“The NCAA should stand up and take notice that Jeff is involved,” said Bob Lanza, a former National Basketball Association players’ union general counsel who worked alongside Kessler and is now a partner in O’Neill & Lanza, a professional sports advisory firm. “I can’t think of anybody more qualified to start this type of department.”
“If players coming out of high school had some type of representation, or if somebody like Jeff initially made sure the players are represented in the right fashion, where both parties are happy with the deal, then a lot of this stuff wouldn’t even happen,” said former UCLA college basketball star Ed O'Bannon.
EA Sports agreed last week to settle a lawsuit brought by former college athletes over use of their likeness in video games.