Sports blog serves a new niche


Published March 2, 2018

headshot of Nellie Drew

Helen A. “Nellie” Drew, an adjunct professor in the School of Law, is an expert in sports law. She is quoted frequently in local and national media on issues ranging from paying college athletes to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s suspension.

Drew and her students have established a multi-faceted sports blog featuring articles that range from a discussion of Tide’s marketing Super Bowl strategy to the Larry Nassar scandal.

The blog — UB Law Sports & Entertainment Forum — was created to serve as an outlet for developing networking connections for law students within the specialized field of sports law. Drew says she hopes the blog will benefit students and alumni involved in sports law, and others who shares that interest.

“There are some more extensive sports law commentaries out there,” she says. “But nothing that’s quick and dirty, three or four paragraphs, on issues of note.”

In an interview with UBNow, Drew talked about the blog, including plans to expand the site to include entertainment law.

Where did you get the idea of doing a sports blog?

ND: We have been, for a while now, struggling to find a way for my sports law students to publish. The challenge is that in sports law, very often the issues happen very quickly. By the time we go through the typical process — like for a law review — that takes a long time to publish an article, like several months. You publish it, and then it’d be kind of irrelevant, or obsolete because more had happened in the interim.

We were looking for a way for students to publish things that were on point, interesting, helpful for their resume and get their names out there in the networking sports law community.

Is this your first time doing something like this?

ND: I’ve never done anything like this before. I am very fortunate to have very strong support from students. I think we have about a 50-50 contribution from current students and from students who are now alums. Some of them are working in the field.

Will you be collaborating with other sports law specialists?

ND: We hope so, yes. Our authors are reaching out to other people, coaches, people with expertise and experience in certain areas.

Who is your target audience?

ND: The initial audience is current and former students who are interested in sports law. We expect that the blog will be of interest to the UB community as a whole and to the sports law community.

Do you think the average sports fan would be interested?

ND: More and more, because the sports law industry is growing, as I’m sure you can tell by looking at any media source. More and more sports are subject to regulation and every day there are new and more significant issues.

Which type of sports will you be covering? Local or national?

ND: Just about anything. We divided it up into sort of beats, if you will. A few people will be covering football, college football, college basketball, the NBA. We divvied that up. This week, lots of Olympics. We’ll have a special issue coming out at the end of the month to honor National Girls & Women in Sports Day.

Will the blog be integrated into your classes?

ND: It’s simply for your own interest. I have reached out to my students and said, “If you’d like to participate, I’d love to have you.” It’s a great learning opportunity. I’ve already had some people take advantage of that. I hope to have more. We’ll see.  

Will your blog include hot-button issues such as the “take a knee protest?”

ND: This week we’ve already had something on (disgraced former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor) Larry Nassar. We had something on the Olympics. It’s interesting because, of course, as the hot buttons come up, I get three or four students saying, “I’ll talk about that one.”

Will you be sharing your personal experiences in your profession, including your work as former counsel for the Buffalo Sabres?

ND: Yeah, on occasion I suspect I will be. I posted an entry based upon my experience. I was fortunate to attend the MAC [Mid-American Conference] Inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Conference, and that spurred some reflection on my part on how we regulate amateur and professional athletics. From time to time I’ll share more stories.

What are the main changes that have occurred since you’ve been practicing sports law?

ND: Certainly more regulation, which is I think overall probably a good thing. A lot more opportunities in the business in terms of employment; a lot more women, which is fantastic. The minority piece is not as much as it should be, but we’re getting better. There has been a change in perception with respect to player injury. I think both amateur and professional sports are in the middle of a reset, where people are starting to recognize that there are individuals playing the game, not just people who are the source of statistics. Which is a good thing, but we have a long way to go there.

Do you think college athletes are being exploited?

ND: What I heard at the MAC conference was particularly compelling, as a lot of the presenters were MAC school administrators who had been high-level athletes. They still value their experiences; that’s why they’re doing the work they do. But what was interesting was that each of them felt that there were times when either they or people they knew needed support that was not forthcoming. Part of our [prior day’s blog post] discussion was about how we can provide that support.

You bring a student athlete in who may not have had parents who attended college, who may know nothing about the NCAA athletic system, and assume that because their kid shows up on campus and trains and goes through an athletic season for four years that they’re going to come out with a degree and know what to do with it. And that’s not necessarily true for any student, right? But especially for a student who has such a demanding time commitment as athletics, it’s something that you have to pay attention to.

I think the balance should be restructured, in many instances. Here at UB, we do a fantastic job of providing our students with academic support. I think there are other institutions where it’s much more challenging for a student athlete to be a student, and that’s wrong.