Heisman Trophy Winner, NBA Star Charlie Ward and President of the Sarasota Bar Keith Dubose Speak at WMU-Cooley Soifer Memorial Lecture
College football Heisman Trophy winner and retired NBA basketball player Charlie Ward, along with the president of the Sarasota Bar and college football standout Keith DuBose, spoke at the Howard Soifer Memorial Lecture in Sports and Entertainment Law on Friday, Feb. 17. Hosted by WMU-Cooley Law School, Tampa Bay campus, this was the 11th Howard Soifer Memorial Lecture, though the first to take place in Florida.
The featured speakers gave advice on financial, ethical and other legal matters related to professional athletes. DuBose, a shareholder at the law firm of Matthews Eastmoore, shared the lawyer perspective, while Ward spoke of his experiences as an athlete during the Q&A style discussion.
The lecture began with questions about what athletes could do to find someone to assist them as an agent. Both DuBose and Ward said it was important for young athletes and entertainers to build a trusted network when they start their careers. They spoke of how adjusting to life after college may be daunting for athletes who become solely focused on playing their sport and graduating unless they have a support system.
“You have a student athlete who spends his or her time working out, playing football, going to class -- that’s all they know for the most part,” said DuBose. “All of a sudden they’re turned into the vicious world, where they have to make a living. They’re also in a situation where their employer now is worried mostly about their bottom line, not necessarily their best interests. They need someone they can look to, a mentor or a trusted adviser, that they can count on and give them good quality direction and information about how to secure their future.”
Ward stressed how athletes should be open to collaborating with professionals outside of the sports law team they might have established for themselves. He also said never to burn bridges with connections.
“It’s important that when you are on a team and you’re a part of a team, you understand that if you need to work with someone else, it’s OK,” Ward said. “It’s good to work with other people because you can learn a lot from others.”
Throughout the discussion, the speakers emphasized trust and integrity between athletes and agents as being two key factors in sports and entertainment law. DuBose called on fellow and future professionals to stay ethical and true to themselves.
“You may lose business, you may lose opportunity, but one thing you cannot do is compromise your integrity. If you don’t have integrity and people can’t respect you, it doesn’t mean anything in the end,” said DuBose.
In addition to being a retired professional basketball player and Heisman trophy winner, Ward excelled as a college basketball player and was a Major League Baseball draftee. In his college football career at Florida State University he was honored with the Davey O’Brien and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm awards. Despite being one of the most decorated players in college football history, Ward pursued a professional basketball career and played in the NBA from 1994-2005 for the New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs, and Houston Rockets.
DuBose earned his undergraduate degree at Duke University and was a member of the 1989 Duke football team that won the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship.
Previous Soifer Memorial Lecture speakers have been T.J. Duckett, former running back in the National Football League; Tom Izzo, Michigan State University men’s basketball coach; Kevin Poston, president and CEO of Detroit-area based DEAL Elite Athletic Management; Steve Smith, broadcaster and former NBA all-star basketball player; and Steve Garvey, former Major League Baseball all-star and MVP.
Soifer (1949-2003) was a 1977 graduate of WMU-Cooley Law School. He was an avid sports fan and represented several prominent professional athletes during his career as a shareholder with Loomis, Ewert, Parsley, Davis & Gotting, P.C. Soifer was grateful for his legal education at WMU-Cooley Law School and his family, friends and partners have endowed the lecture series in his memory.
About Western Michigan University Cooley Law School: WMU-Cooley Law School resulted from the 2014 affiliation that combined WMU's status as a nationally-ranked, public, comprehensive research university with the commitment to practical legal education of an independent, non-profit, national law school. WMU-Cooley is accredited by both the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The law school has provided nearly 20,000 graduates with the practical skills necessary for a seamless transition from academia to the real world, and enrolls classes in January, May, and September at its Lansing, Auburn Hills, and Grand Rapids, Michigan campuses, and its Tampa Bay, Florida campus. WMU and WMU-Cooley Law School operate as independent institutions with their own governance structure and separate fiduciary responsibilities.