The Columns

W&L Symposium Examines Sports, Law and Media

— by on November 2nd, 2009

Two panels of attorneys, reporters, and pro sports executives will explore issues of sports, the law and the media during the third annual Reynolds Media, Courts and Law Symposium at Washington and Lee University on Nov. 11-12.

The first panel in the two day event, “The Perfect Storm: The Intersection of Sports, the Law and the Media,” will feature the attorneys who represented professional football players Michael Vick and Donte Stallworth. Other panelists include ESPN columnist Jackie MacMullen and Wall Street Journal reporter Lee Hawkins. That panel will be held at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 11, in Stackhouse Theater.

On Thursday, Nov. 12, at 10 a.m., three nationally known sports reporters and a major league baseball official will address “Women in the Locker Room: Are the Boys Still Being Boys?” For that panel MacMullen will be joined by Lesley Visser of CBS Sports, USA Today columnist Christine Brennan and Kim Ng, vice president and assistant general manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers. That program will also be held in Stackhouse Theatre.

Both events are open to the public at no charge.

Toni Locy, the Reynolds Professor of Legal Journalism at Washington and Lee and one of the organizers of the event, said: “When athletes get into trouble, they find themselves in a legal and media firestorm. Our symposium will provide a forum for a frank discussion of how athletes, lawyers and journalists behave – or misbehave – when sports heroes wind up in court.”

The opening panel will focus on several of the legal issues that have been prominently reported in recent months, including National Football League quarterback Michael Vick’s conviction for dogfighting and Cleveland Brown wide receiver Donte Stallworth’s DUI vehicular manslaughter case.

Lawrence H. Woodward Jr., was a member of the legal team that defended Vick and has represented him and several other sports figures, including basketball star Allen Iverson and such NFL players as Plaxico Burress, Deangelo Hall and Jason Snelling. He is a member of Virginia Beach firm of Suttleworth, Ruloff, Swain, Haddad & Morecock.

Christopher G. Lyons of the Florida law firm Lyons and Lurvey PA, was the attorney for Stallworth, who entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to 30 days in jail last March. The NFL suspended Stallworth for the 2009 season.

Lee Hawkins, a Wall Street Journal reporter and an on-air contributor for CNBC, is also the host of “Newbos: The Rise of America’s New Black Overclass,” a prime time documentary released early this year about how increased earnings affect black celebrities in the sports, entertainment and media industries and what it will take for these individuals to take more control over their brands and businesses as entrepreneurs. At the Journal, Hawkins has covered the Big Three automakers from the paper’s Detroit bureau.

Jackie MacMullan is a columnist and correspondent for ESPN and a regular participant on ESPN’s “Around the Horn.” She began working at the Boston Globe in 1982 and was a sportswriter, columnist and associate editor until she left the paper last March. At the Globe, MacMullan covered everything from the World Series and the Stanley Cup Finals to Final Four tournaments and the NBA championship. In 1999, she collaborated with Celtic great Larry Bird on his autobiography “Bird Watching.” Her latest book, “When The Game Was Ours,” is a collaboration with Bird and his long-time rival, Magic Johnson.

In addition to participating in the panel on Wednesday night, MacMullen will be joined on Thursday by the following panelists:

Lesley Visser, a pioneer among TV sports journalists, is in her second stint with CBS Sports, where she contributes to “The NFL Today” and college basketball coverage and writes a column for CBS.com. She began her career as a sportswriter with the Boston Globe and in 1976 became the first woman NFL beat writer when she started covering the New England Patriots. Visser has worked with ABC Sports, CBS Sports, NBC and ESPN and achieved numerous “firsts.” She was the first woman TV correspondent to cover a World Series, the first woman assigned to Monday Night Football, and she was the first woman to report from the sidelines during a Super Bowl. In 2004 the International Olympic Committee honored her as a “pioneer and standard-bearer” and allowed her to become the first woman sportscaster to carry the Olympic torch. In 2006, Ms. Visser won the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award given for exceptional contributions in the field of professional football and was the first woman to be recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Christine Brennan
is an award-winning sports columnist for USA Today and a commentator for ABC News, NPR, CBS College Sports and CNN. She has covered 13 consecutive Olympic Games (winter and summer). Three of her seven books are about Olympic figure skating, including the 1996 best seller “Inside Edge,” which Sports Illustrated named one of the best 100 sports books of all time. She was the first journalist to uncover the pairs figure skating scandal at the 2002 Winter Olympics. Brennan’s 2002 column on Augusta National Golf Club’s lack of female members started a national debate on the issue. Brennan started her career as the first full-time woman sports reporter for the Miami Herald in 1981. She moved to the Washington Post in 1984 and was the first woman to cover the Washington Redskins. In 1988, she was elected the first president of the Association for Women in Sports Media. Under her leadership, AWSM started a scholarship-internship program for female journalism students. Her most recent books are Best Seat in the House, a memoir about her father and her life in sports, and Pressure is a Privilege, written with Billie Jean King.

Kim Ng (pronounced ANG) became assistant general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2001 and is one of only two female executives in Major League Baseball to hold such a position in baseball operations. Ng began her baseball career as a special projects analyst with the Chicago White Sox and became the youngest person, and first woman, to present a salary arbitration case in the major leagues. Later she became director of waivers and records, approving all transactions in the offices of the American League. In 1997, the New York Yankees hired her as assistant general manager, making her, at 29, the youngest in the major leagues. Ng was the first woman to interview for a general manager’s position in major league history when she did so with the Dodgers in 2005. She was also a finalist for GM positions in both Seattle and, last month, San Diego.