Board of Directors & Advisors
David J. Lisko
President and Chairman of the Board of Directors
David J. Lisko is an attorney in Holland & Knight’s Tampa, Florida Office and a member of the firm’s Business Litigation and Sports & Entertainment Sections. Mr. Lisko is also a Certified NFL Agent and business and crisis management consultant. Mr. Lisko advises clients on contract negotiations, strategic business planning, litigation in state and federal courts, white collar criminal defense, alternative dispute resolution, investigations, and compliance policies and procedures. Mr. Lisko’s clients consist of athletes, Fortune 500 companies, entrepreneurs and startup companies, teams, and non-profits charitable organizations. In addition to being the President of the Sports Business and Leadership Association, Mr. Lisko is on the Board of Directors of Jacob Burke’s Just A Kid Foundation, a Member of the Sports Lawyers Association, and a Member of the National Football League Players Association. Mr. Lisko was named a Tampa Bay Business Journal Up and Comer in 2014, a Barrister’s Best Sports and Entertainment Lawyer for Law Week Colorado in 2016, and a Florida Super Lawyer’s Rising Star in 2017.
Prior to joining Holland & Knight, Mr. Lisko received an bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University and attended law school at The Ohio State Moritz College of Law. While in law school, Mr. Lisko worked under the general counsel of the Columbus Blue Jacket NHL team, was a managing editor for the Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, the winner of the Lawrence Negotiation Competition, and a finalist in the American Bar Association Negotiation Competition. Prior to entering law school, Mr. Lisko played wide receiver on The Ohio State University football team (2004-2008) and was an “Academic All-Big Ten Team Selection” and a three-time “Big Ten Conference Champion.” Mr. Lisko also played lacrosse at The Ohio State University his freshman year and was a “Great Western Lacrosse League Champion.”
Mr. Lisko is married to his wife, Chelsie, and has three children. Mr. Lisko has a passion for sports, helping children, and making a difference in his community.
Mr. Lisko’s law firm bio can be found at https://www.hklaw.com/David-Lisko/
Director and President of Miami, FL Chapter
Jeffrey Kominsky is an attorney at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP’s Fort Lauderdale office. Mr. Kominsky’s practice focuses on commercial litigation, maritime/admiralty litigation, and personal injury/wrongful death. Before joining Lewis & Brisbois, Mr. Kominsky was an attorney at Conrad & Scherer LLP and he practiced with a large Florida firm, where he gained experience in general litigation, including negligence, medical malpractice, and contract disputes.
Prior to entering private practice, Mr. Kominsky honed his legal skills while working for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington D.C. and the Civil Rights Section of the Office of the Ohio Attorney General. From 2002 through 2005, Mr. Kominsky interned with the Minnesota Vikings, reporting directly to former Vikings owner, Red McCombs. Mr. Kominsky’s interest in sports continued into his studies at law school as the Founder & Chair of the Inaugural Sports Law Symposium at The Ohio State University. Mr. Kominsky received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Michigan in 2005 and his juris doctorate degree from Moritz School of Law in 2008. He resides in South Florida.
Megha H. Parekh
Megha H. Parekh is Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer of the Jacksonville Jaguars. In her role, Megha is responsible for oversight over all legal matters (including all compliance, transactions and disputes), risk-management, management of the Jaguars relationship with the City of Jacksonville and the facility manager at EverBank Field, human resources and employee training and development, information technology and office services.
Megha joined the Jaguars in March 2013. Since joining the Jaguars, Megha has worked on team-owner Shahid Khan’s acquisition of Fulham Football Club and nearly $90 million in public-private funded improvements to EverBank Field. Megha has also worked on the extension of naming rights to EverBank Field; new food, beverage and merchandise concessions agreements; three amendments to the lease between the Jaguars and the City of Jacksonville; new local media rights agreements; and an extension of the Jaguars commitment to play in London. Megha is currently working on the construction of a new covered flex field and amphitheater immediately south of the stadium. In addition, Megha helped found a new people development initiative called “Jaguars University” to bring training and development opportunities to all Jaguars employees.
Prior to joining the Jaguars, Megha worked in the New York office of the law firm Proskauer. Proskauer is an international law firm known for its preeminent sports law group. Megha worked in the transactional practice under the leadership of Chairman Joe Leccese, whom she regards as an incredible attorney and mentor. During her time at Proskauer, Megha worked on public and private acquisitions and financings and securities offerings, including the acquisition of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Houston Astros and the Cleveland Browns.
Megha graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and from Harvard College with a degree in social studies. She worked closely with Peter Carfagna, a visiting lecturer at Harvard Law, on his sports law courses and helped generate the curriculum for a seminar on contracting in the sports industry. She is honored to have been recognized by Forbes magazine twice as a member of the 30 Under- 30 in sports and by the Ivy Sports Symposium as one of the 10 Next in sports. She serves as a member of the board of directors of the Florida Sports Foundation and has served as a member of the board of directors of Women in Sports and Events, Inc.
Neema J. Kassaii
Director and President of Denver, CO Chapter
Neema J. Kassaii is currently an attorney at Cozen O’Connor in Denver, Colorado. He is also the Co-Founder and Co-Owner of ULAX, LLC, which is a lacrosse organization that hosts lacrosse events throughout the continental United States and Canada with approximately 5,000 participants each year. Neema concentrates his law practice on complex commercial litigation matters. Mr. Kassaii represents and advises clients on an array of topics including, product liability, casualty defense, construction law litigation, insurance disputes, employment discrimination, breach of contract, toxic tort, environmental pollution and catastrophic personal injury defense. He has successfully represented individuals and corporations in both state and federal court. Mr. Kassaii also serves as a member of Cozen O’Connor’s sports law industry group.
Prior to joining Cozen O’Connor, Mr. Kassaii clerked in the 18th Judicial District Court of Colorado. He earned his J.D., with honors, from Brooklyn Law School. While at Brooklyn Law School, Mr. Kassaii was a staff editor on Brooklyn Law School’s Journal of Law and Policy. In addition, he worked as a legal research assistant in the area of employment law, obtained a certificate in intellectual property law, and was awarded the Donald D. Greenstein Prize for Excellence in Employee Pension and Labor Law. Mr. Kassaii earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and communication from the University of Colorado at Boulder where he played on the men’s lacrosse team.
Director and President of Washington, D.C. Chapter
Mika is the Director of Government Relations for Tyson Foods, Inc. in Washington, D.C. Mika has been with Tyson foods for over eight years working on issues pertaining to the House and Senate Agriculture and Appropriations Committees, along with House specific issues and letters, agriculture, transportation, environment, energy, and ethanol issues.
Before Tyson Foods, Mika has worked for the American Meat Institute now the North American Meat Institute, and for three Members of the Michigan Delegation, Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI-07), Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI-04), and Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI-07). Mika spent six years working in the Michigan state legislature for former Lieutenant Governor Dick Posthumus, former State Representative David Palsrok (110th). He has run several successful state representatives, statewide, and congressional campaigns; and worked on the Advance team for President George W. Bush.
Born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and raised in Southfield, MI just north of Detroit, Mika has lived in Washington, DC since 2004. Mika is an avid sports fan and involved in many sports from baseball, softball, golf, hockey, basketball, and others. Mr. Mika is a commissioner of The United States House Softball League (USHSL). He is a volunteer staff coach for the Republican team for the annual bipartisan Congressional Baseball Game. Mika is one of five survivors who was shot at a Congressional Baseball practice in 2017.
Mika received his Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a Political Science/Pre-law Minor from Adrian College, in 2001 in Adrian, MI and played on both the football and baseball teams. In 2010, he was awarded the Young Alumni Achievement Award from Adrian College. The 1997 Football Team which Mr. Mika was a member was inducted into the Adrian College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2014. Mr. Mika is the president of the Agribusiness Club of Washington, D.C. and a member of Toastmasters.
Director and President of Tampa, FL Chapter
Connor Dietz is Partner at GMTM Inc., a technology company that uses data, analytics and AI to connect athletes with opportunities. Connor oversees business development, operations and sales. Prior to joining GMTM as partner, Connor was Managing Partner and Director of Sales Strategy at TUF Life Skills, LLC., where he now sits as Strategic Advisor to the company. Connor began his career as an Air Force Officer, serving 5 years active duty in logistics and life cycle management; he still maintains status as a Captain in the AF Reserves. Connor has over 15 years of experience building highly effective teams, streamlining processes, helping companies scale, managing projects domestically and internationally, but most importantly- empowering the individual and collective growth.
Connor was proudly born and raised in Columbus, OH, where he was a State Champion Quarterback, 3-Sport Athlete, and National Honor Student. Connor went on to graduate from the United States Air Force Academy where he majored in Business Management & Administration while continuing his football career holding the position of Starting Quarterback and Team Captain for the Falcons.
First and foremost, Connor is steadfast in his faith, family and friends. He is fueled by never letting his best day be behind him and empowering those around him to reach their highest ascents.
Director and President of Los Angeles, CA Chapter
Jarrod Barnes has always looked to challenge the status quo and never allowed his limitations to define him. From experiencing homelessness, to pursuing the NFL and interacting with CEO’s, Jarrod has developed a message that has the power to influence the hearts and minds of any generation.
Jarrod is a former Assistant Director of Student-Athlete Development at Clemson University, where he oversaw all career development services, employer relations, and professional development programming for Clemson student-athletes. Jarrod is also a former student-athlete and Defensive Back’s coach at The Ohio State University and student-athlete at the University of Louisville, competing on their football teams. Jarrod was the first ever Ohio State football player to pursue a Ph.D. while on the active roster.
At Ohio State, Jarrod was named Academic All-Big Ten and nominee for the Wuerffel Trophy (College Football’s Top Community Service Award) and recipient of the John Carlos Sports Humanitarian Award in 2016. In 2017, Jarrod was named a National Football Foundation scholar-athlete and Hampshire Honor Society member while also receiving the McMurray Student-Athlete Citizenship Award from The Ohio State University.
A native of Columbus, Ohio, Jarrod has been widely recognized by Who’s Who Magazine, NPR Radio, ESPN, Fox Sports, The Big Ten Network, and The Ohio State University as a top up-and coming young professional, academic, and leader in the country.
John P. Higgins
John P. Higgins joined the Tampa Rays organization as its first employee on April 1, 1995, when he was named the team’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel. From 1999 through 2007, he also served as the organization’s chief financial officer. Mr. Higgins has practiced law in the Tampa Bay area since 1979, specializing in corporate, commercial and real estate law. He is also a certified public accountant. For three years, he represented Vince Naimoli and the rest of the Tampa Bay ownership group in its efforts to acquire a Major League Baseball franchise. In addition to his responsibilities with the Rays, he is “of counsel” to the Holland & Knight law firm. Mr. Higgins currently serves as a member of the board of directors of the Rays Baseball Foundation and the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce. He is also past chairman of the St. Petersburg Chamber as well as PARC. He was the recipient of the 2013 Clutch Hitters Award from the Clutch Hitters of Tampa Bay organization. Mr. Higgins received his bachelor of business administration degree from the University of Notre Dame in 1975 and his juris doctorate degree from Duke University School of Law in 1979. He resides in St. Petersburg, Florida, his home since 1960, with his wife, Robin. They have two sons, Sean Patrick and Patrick Ryan, and two grandchildren, Ryan Matthew and Jordan Reilly.
President of Nashville, TN Chapter
Daniel Werly is Managing Partner of Sievert Werly LLC, a sports law boutique law firm based in Nashville, Tennessee. As chair of the firm’s Professional Sports Law practice, he represents professional sports teams and sports businesses on a wide variety of matters. Daniel is co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Sports Division and is on the Board of Directors for Play Like a Girl, a Nashville based 501(c)(3) that empowers girls ages 9-13 through sport. Dan is also the Founder of the sports legal blog, The White Bronco, and co-host of the sports legal podcast, Conduct Detrimental.
Prior to founding Sievert Werly, Daniel worked at two Am Law 100 law firms in Chicago, most recently as a member of the sports industry team at Foley & Lardner LLP. In that capacity, he represented a wide variety of corporate clients including professional sports teams, leagues, and athletes. Daniel received his J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center and B.S. from Miami (Ohio) University.
Daniel and his wife Liz live in the East Nashville neighborhood of Nashville with their son Jack and two dogs.
Director and President of Columbus, OH Chapter
For as long as I could remember, I’ve known two things about myself: one, I relish a good argument; and two, I’ve been passionate about defending those who need help, and helping those in need. These drew me to a career in the law. And since passing the bar in 2012, I’ve been fortunate to have pursued these two passions, earning significant experience providing legal counsel to businesses, families, and individuals.
During my time as an undergraduate philosophy student at the University of Akron, I honed my love for critical thinking and studied the theory and art of formulating an argument. It was one of my insightful professors who suggested that I take up law. It goes without saying that I heeded his advice and embarked on a career that has been one of the joys of my life.
I attended The Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law, and after graduating early, I went on to work at a high level in both the public and private sectors covering a range of issues. These include handling criminal matters as a senior law clerk in the governor’s office, advising Fortune 500 companies complex regulated transactions, managing and overseeing a $300 million business development program for the State of Ohio, and compassionately advising individuals and families through estate planning and probate matters. The breadth and level of my experience affords me a unique perspective on a range of legal issues, giving me an ability to effectively counsel business clients, families, and individuals through any number of legal issues.
Co-Founder and CEO
Justin R. Moore is an in-house attorney and construction manager at Granite Construction, a publicly-traded general contractor specializing in heavy civil infrastructure projects. Mr. Moore operates from Granite’s Southeastern Regional Office in Tampa, Florida. Prior to joining Granite, Mr. Moore practiced law in Tampa at national and international law firms from 2010 to 2017 where his practice focused on construction, real estate and sports. Mr. Moore received his law degree from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, and is a member of the Florida Bar.
Mr. Moore is a military veteran and served in the United States Air Force as a commissioned officer and pilot until his honorable discharge before starting law school. He received his bachelor’s degree from the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he graduated with athletic distinction in 2004 and received a prestigious leadership award for most outstanding squadron commander in his first class (senior) year. Mr. Moore also attended the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, for a semester as part of the service academy exchange program.
Mr. Moore is a native of North-Central West Virginia where he was an all-state athlete in baseball and football over multiple years. He has a lifelong passion for competitive sports, coaching, athletic training, and improving the lives of young people through athletic activities and organized sports participation. Mr. Moore is married to his wife and fellow attorney, Holly, and they reside in Tampa.
- Vice President and General Counsel for ICON Venue Group
- Responsible for negotiating, interpreting, and completing development, design, finance, leasing, operation, engineering and construction agreements and managing other legal matters relating to sports and entertainment venues, professional sports teams, television production/rights, and IP rights/technology.
- Attorney for Dentons US LLP (f/k/a SNR Denton LLP; Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP) (Chicago, Illinois)
- Represented and advised clients on a wide variety of legal issues including contractual rights, insurance, and intellectual property.
- Attorney for Alston & Bird LLP (Atlanta, Georgia)
- Represented and advised clients on technology and intellectual property issues facing their companies.
- JD, cum laude, Executive Editor of the Washington University Law Review, Washington University School of Law
- BA, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, in Philosophy and Political Science, Emory University
Rana Dershowitz joined the Aspen Skiing Company in Aspen, Colorado as its Vice President and General Counsel in November 2014. In this role, Ms. Dershowitz is responsible for oversight of all legal matters for company and has active involvement in the company’s sustainability and government affairs efforts. The Aspen Skiing Company is a privately held company which owns and operates Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass, Buttermilk, the Little Nell, the Limelight and numerous restaurants and rental retail shops in the Aspen area. The Aspen Skiing Company recently announced the purchase of land in Sun Valley Idaho on which it intends to build a new Limelight hotel, its first foray outside the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado.
Ms. Dershowitz joined the Aspen Skiing Company after spending many years with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). Ms. Dershowitz first joined the USOC in April 2007 as Deputy General Counsel, and the following month was named Interim General Counsel. She was then elevated to General Counsel and Chief of Legal and Government Affairs for the in March 2008. In this position, Ms. Dershowitz oversaw the organization’s legal functions, and functioned as corporate secretary for the USOC board of directors. She also served as the USOC’s ethics officer, coordinating with the USOC’s independent, board established Ethics Committee.
Prior to joining the USOC, Ms. Dershowitz served as a Vice President and, prior to that, Director of Legal and Business Affairs at Madison Square Garden, L.P. (now Madison Square Garden Company). At Madison Square Garden, Ms. Dershowitz was one of the primary attorneys handling a broad range of legal and business matters for the NBA’s New York Knicks, the NHL’s New York Rangers, and the WNBA’s New York Liberty. She also handled legal matters for Madison Square Garden Network and Fox Sports Net New York.
Before Madison Square Garden, Rana Dershowitz was an associate in the Television and Film Group of the renowned New York entertainment law firm of Grubman, Indursky & Schindler, P.C. She began her legal career as an associate in the New York office of the international law firm of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson where she focused on litigation matters in the areas of antitrust, commercial law disputes, employment law and intellectual property. Ms. Dershowitz also served as an adjunct professor of sports law at New York Law School for two years.
Rana Dershowitz is a cum laude graduate of Harvard College where she earned Phi Beta Kappa honors, received a John Harvard Scholarship and was a four-year member and 1989-92 captain of the Harvard Varsity Ski Team. She received her law degree, cum laude, from Harvard Law School, where she was executive editor of the Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review and a staff member of the Harvard Journal on Legislation. In 2012, Dershowitz was named one of Sports Business Journal’s Class of 2012 Game Changers: Women in Sports Business. Rana currently resides in Basalt, Colorado with her husband, Brian, and their two young children, Austin and Marley.
Jaimie Wolf is currently Associate Counsel for Kroenke Sports & Entertainment in Denver, Colorado. He joined KSE in 2013 and focuses primarily on managing all of the day-to-day legal issues involving the Colorado Avalanche, the Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Rapids, the Colorado Mammoth and Altitude Tickets as well as the Pepsi Center, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, 1STBANK Center and Paramount Theatre. Mr. Wolf is responsible for working across all of KSE’s business lines, frequently negotiating and drafting a variety of contracts, such as sponsorship agreements, technology service agreements, suite licenses, venue use and rental agreements and vendor agreements (such as concession services agreements), and working closely with KSE’s risk management and human resources departments.
Prior to joining KSE, Mr. Wolf was an associate at Moritt Hock & Hamroff LLP (2012-13), where he concentrated his practice on all aspects of marketing, advertising and promotions law. Representative experience includes drafting and negotiating endorsement agreements for various professional athletes and Grammy winning musicians and representing an Emmy Award winning documentary producer in all aspects of film production.
Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Wolf was the Director of Legal Affairs for the New York Islanders (20003-10) where he oversaw all of the team’s day-to-day legal issues and risk management programs. In addition, he also worked closely in managing and counseling the team’s Human Resources department. Jaimie has also served as an in-house attorney to The Telx Group Inc., a leading data center operator and collocation service provider, as well as MSC Industrial Supply Co., a Fortune 1000 distributor of industrial and maintenance, repair and operational products.
Mr. Wolf started his career as an Attorney-Advisor at the Department of Labor’s Office of Administrative Law Judges in Washington, D.C. He earned his Juris Doctorate with honors from Tulane Law School in 2001, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of The Sports Lawyers Journal, and received his B.A. from the University of Delaware in 1998, where he majored in English and History. He is admitted to practice in New York and Colorado and is a member of the Sports Lawyers Association and the Association of Corporate Counsel.
Rebecca Beliard is an attorney at Akerman, LLP’s Fort Lauderdale office and is a member of the firm’s Corporate and Entertainment Groups. Her practice focuses on a wide range of transactional matters including mergers and acquisitions, general corporate and intellectual property matters and licensing and technology agreements. Recently, Rebecca received the Pro Bono Honor Roll Award for providing legal services to nonprofit organizations. In addition to serving as an advisory board member for the Sports Business and Leadership Association, she is an Ambassador of African American Art for Miami’s Perez Art Museum (PAMM), a member of the American Bar Association, and a member of the Black Entertainment Sports Lawyers Association.
Prior to joining Akerman, Rebecca worked at various media and entertainment companies including CBS Corporation, Sony Music Entertainment and Emmis Communications (Hot 97). Rebecca earned her B.S. and M.A. from St. John’s University and her Juris Doctor from the University of Florida. While attending law school, she served as an editor for both the Journal of Technology Law and Policy and the Journal of Law and Public Policy. Rebecca was also the Vice President of the Entertainment and Sports Law Society and helped to revive the annual Entertainment and Sports Law Symposium.
During her free time, Rebecca enjoys mentoring children, traveling and helping young professionals navigate their budding careers using her social media platforms. Through SBLA, she hopes to inspire children to diligently pursue their goals, despite the obstacles they may face along the way.
Rebecca’s firm bio can be found here: https://www.akerman.com/en/people/rebecca-beliard.html
Stephanie Galvin is the Associate Counsel of the Miami Marlins. In her role as Associate Counsel, Stephanie advises and assists various departments in their daily operations by negotiating and drafting agreements, ensuring marketing and sales promotions are legally compliant, analyzing and developing solutions to minimize risk, managing worker’s compensation claims, overseeing outside counsel, along with any other legal issues that may arise.
Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Stephanie first moved to the United States in to attend the Sports Law Program at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee, WI. While at Marquette, Stephanie interned with the Milwaukee Brewers, Charlotte Hornets, National Sports Law Institute, National Labor Relations Board, Andresen & Associates, P.C., and the Wisconsin Court of Appeals. Upon graduation, Stephanie worked as an associate at Sharif Faust, Lawyers, Ltd. in San Diego, CA, where she worked on various cases from transactional and business formations to civil and criminal litigation. In the fall of 2015, Stephanie left private practice to join the Orlando Magic as a post-graduate legal intern, before landing her current position with the Marlins.
Stephanie earned her law degree (J.D., cum laude, 2014) and M.B.A (2014) from Marquette University, where she was the Editor-in-Chief of the Marquette Sports Law Review. Stephanie earned her bachelor’s degree in business, majoring in marketing, from the University of British Columbia (B.Comm, 2010).
Jessica Merrick is the Associate Counsel of Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment (including the Tampa Bay Lightning, AMALIE Arena, and the Lightning Foundation) and Tampa Bay Entertainment Properties (including the University of South Florida Athletics, the Yuengling Center, and The Identity Tampa Bay). In her role as Associate Counsel, Jessica advises and assists various departments in their daily operations by negotiating and drafting agreements, ensuring marketing and sales promotions are legally compliant, analyzing and developing solutions to minimize risk, assisting in defending AMALIE Arena in various civil suits, and overseeing outside counsel, along with any other legal issues that may arise.
Prior to joining TBSE, Jessica worked for Minor League Baseball in the President’s office and Mandalay Baseball Properties. She was named Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Top Corporate Counsel – Up and Comer Category in March 2018.
Originally from Rochester, New York, Jessica received her Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in government and world affairs, from the University of Tampa, and her Juris Doctorate from Southwestern University School of Law, in Los Angeles, California where she specialized in entertainment law.
Samir Patel is an Associate of Holland and Knight in Miami. He represents a diverse group of clients seeking to implement distributed ledger technology (blockchain) into their business. With a technical background in blockchain and smart contracts, he is able to assist clients in navigating through the legal and regulatory issues they face adopting the new technology.
Samir has extensive knowledge of and experience in the sports industry. Originally from Toronto, Canada, Samir received his Bachelors of Sports Management and Administration from Brock University. While in Canada, he sat on the organizing committee for numerous high-profile events including the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, the 2011 IIHF World U20 Championships, The Royal Canadian Henley Regatta, and 2012 Women’s World Wheelchair Basketball Championships. In addition, Samir helped author the business plan for the $205 million Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre.
He attended Michigan State University College of Law, where he served as an academic learning adviser for the football and men’s basketball teams. As a teaching assistant, he helped upper-level law students navigate through Article 2 and 2A of the Uniform Commercial Code and first-year law students with contracts. Through his experience working with collegiate athletes and legal contracts, he identified the opportunity to integrate cutting-edge technology, sports and law.
Angel Williams is the President of The Shine Firm. Born and raised in Hollywood, Florida, Angel’s ability to adapt and excel in any environment is exemplified in her proven track record of successes and positive outcomes that she helps clients discover, plan and execute.
Angel Williams developed a keen interest in the needs of others and the disadvantaged population at a young age. Since her early education matriculation, she has held various leadership positions with clubs and organizations in school and within the community. Through commitment, hard work and perseverance, Angel went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree from Clark Atlanta University in Political Science and a Masters of Public Administration degree from Florida International University where she graduated with honors and earned the Willie E. Williams Endowment Award for community service.
Serving as Co-Founder and Executive Director for Davin Joseph’s foundation, Angel was able to foster and grow the organization to incredible heights. Her selfless effort for the work she is so passionate for has allowed opportunities to be given to youth throughout the Tampa Bay and South Florida areas that might not have otherwise been made possible. As a change agent, she has spent countless hours to master a plan that not only provided a boost to Davin Joseph’s foundation, but uplifts those around her including a variety of athletes and community partners in Florida, Georgia, California and Missouri. She proudly serves on the board of several organizations and vows to continue to allow her passion to drive her.
Washington, D.C. Advisor
Gary Adler is an attorney with the international law firm Clark Hill PLC. He focuses his practice on complex litigation matters and has experience in a broad range of civil litigation at both the trial court and appellate levels. Additionally, he acts as general counsel to various corporations, partnerships and trade associations. In his capacity as general counsel,
Gary advises clients on a wide range of issues including structuring organizations, handling business transactions and negotiating contracts.
Gary has been involved in the sports industry for over three decades. He worked for the National Football League Players Association (“NFLPA”) during law school and since then has represented professional football, baseball and boxing athletes and management in negotiations, corporate matters and litigation. Gary is also well-versed in the legal issues of the secondary ticketing market and serves as general counsel to the National Association of Ticket Brokers.
Gary has been named a “Washington DC Super Lawyer” by Washington
DC Super Lawyers each year since 2012.
Jeff J. Burton
Washington, D.C. Advisor
Jeff J. Burton is President of the Burton Strategy Group. He founded the firm following his service as Deputy Executive Director of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) from 2010-2012. Jeff was a senior political strategist for the House Republican leadership, and had management responsibility for all aspects of the Committee’s work. He played a key role in both raising and directing the expenditure of the Committee’s $150 million budget. He led the Young Guns program founded by Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan to help Republican candidates build strong campaigns through a rigorous program of goals, benchmarks and accountability. Jeff was integrally involved in every targeted House race in the country and developed an almost unmatched expertise about the electoral map and what makes the decisive difference in campaigns.
Prior to his tenure at the NRCC, Jeff served on the senior staff of then-House Republican Whip Eric Cantor. As Director of Outreach and Grassroots, he led advocacy coalitions on the most prominent issues of the 111th Congress — economic stimulus, health care reform, energy legislation and more. Jeff utilized his unique position at the intersection of politics and policy to develop a broad set of working relationships both on and off Capitol Hill. He served as a vital link between these two worlds and cultivated partnerships that produced a rare amount of alignment and cooperation between Members of Congress and grassroots groups. He also helped lead the Young Guns program in its original incarnation, which made a major contribution to House Republicans’ recapturing the majority in 2010.
Jeff came to Washington as Chief of Staff to Congressman Mike Conaway of Texas, after having managed his campaign in 2004. He served as COO of the Congressman’s office and helped formulate and execute all legislative and political strategy. Jeff was widely regarded as one of the most effective Chiefs of Staff on Capitol Hill, a fact that was recognized by his selection to be Chairman of RAMS, a private association of current and former House and Senate Chiefs of Staff, Committee Staff Directors and senior Administration officials.
Washington, D.C. Advisor
Cyril Djoukeng is currently an attorney at Covington & Burling LLP. Mr. Djoukeng practices in the area of sports, and commercial and civil litigation. He has co-authored an article titled, “A Short History of NFL Labor Disputes” (Winter 2012/Winter 2013, Delaware Lawyer).
Prior to joining Covington, Mr. Djoukeng clerked for the Honorable Robert L. Wilkins on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and the U.S. District Court, District of Columbia. Mr. Djoukeng earned his J.D., with high honors, from the University of North Carolina School of Law. While at UNC law school, he was an articles editor on the North Carolina Law Review. Prior to entering law school, Mr. Djoukeng received his B.A. from Nicholls State University, where he was captain of the University’s Division-1 basketball team.
Mr. Djoukeng’s law firm bio can be found at https://www.cov.com/en/professionals/d/cyril-djoukeng
Washington, D.C. Advisor
Ed Elfmann serves as Senior Vice President of Agricultural and Rural Banking Policy for the American Bankers Association in Washington, D.C. ABA is the voice of the nation’s banking industry, and nearly 5,000 banks – 83 percent of all banks nationwide – have agricultural loans within their portfolio.
Elfmann has been with ABA since June 2012, and is ABA’s head of policy on agricultural and rural credit and lending issues. In addition to agricultural policy, Elfmann works on swaps and derivatives policy, financial services, and appropriations for ABA.
Elfmann currently serves on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s Agricultural Markets Advisory Committee and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Agricultural Advisory Committee. In 2015, he was selected to participate in ABA’s Leaders at all Levels leadership program.
A central Minnesota native, Elfmann grew up on a dairy farm where his family still farms corn, soybeans, and steers, in addition to their grain trucking business. Prior to joining ABA, Elfmann was an agriculture and transportation policy advisor for U.S. Congressman Steve King from Iowa. Additionally, he has worked for the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the National Corn Growers Association.
Elfmann is currently President of the Graduate School of Political Management Alumni Association at George Washington University, where he earned his Master’s degree. He earned his B.A. from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. Elfmann is also the Treasurer/Secretary of the D.C. Agribusiness club. In his free time, Elfmann enjoys coaching football at West Potomac High School in Alexandria, VA, coaching the Fort Hunt Warriors boys rugby team, playing softball on his college alumni team, and spending time with his wife Christine.
Washington, D.C. Advisor
Joel Leftwich, is a Managing Director in The Glover Park Group’s Government Affairs Division. He provides strategic and policy counsel to clients and is a key member of GPG Food, the firm’s food and agriculture practice.
Prior to joining GPG, Joel served as Majority Staff Director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry under Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) In addition to his work on the Senate Ag Committee and in Senator Roberts’ personal office, Joel served in several other public-sector roles including the Office of Congressional Relations at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and with former U.S. House of Representatives member Jim Ryun (R-Kan.)
With many years spent in the public sector, Joel also has experience in the private sector as Senior Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs for PepsiCo, Inc. and Program Manager for Federal Affairs for DuPont. In these roles, Joel helped craft the companies’ policies and regulatory positions regarding nutrition, food safety, ingredient supply, and sustainability.
Born and raised in Wellington, Kansas, Joel graduated from Friends University in nearby Wichita where he was a captain of the men’s basketball team. He earned his graduate degree from Loyola University of Chicago. Joel lives with his wife in Cheverly, Maryland.
Washington, D.C. Advisor
Jeffrey F. Levine, J.D., Ph.D., is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Sport Management at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. His expertise focuses on the intersection of sport, law, and policy, as well as using sport as a tool to help facilitate social change.
Jeff worked in the business and legal segments of the sport industry, as well as in private law practice. In addition to law practice, Jeff has worked for organizations such as the Arizona Coyotes, Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Dolphins, Fiesta Bowl Committee and the University of Michigan Athletic Department. Faculty stops include positions at Southern Illinois University, Northwestern University, Concordia University, Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, and serving as an adjunct professor at several law schools.
A metro Detroit native, Jeff graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in Sport Management and Communications, received a Juris Doctor from Tulane University Law School with a certificate in sports law, and was awarded his Ph.D. in sport management from the University of Louisville. He is admitted to practice law in Arizona and Michigan, and is a member of the Sports Lawyers Association, North American Society for Sport Management, the Sport and Recreation Law Association, and the USAID Learning Lab for Sport for Development and Peace.
Washington, D.C. Advisor
Brian Ronholm is Senior Director of Regulatory Policy in Arent Fox’s FDA and Agriculture group, where he specializes in food and nutrition policy, and provides clients with strategic advice on navigating regulatory and legislative challenges in the agricultural policy arena.
From 2011 – 2017, he served as USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, where he provided oversight of the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), the department’s public health agency that regulates domestic and imported meat, poultry, catfish, and processed egg products. During his time at USDA, Brian developed strategic frameworks and engaged in outreach activities to advance policies and initiatives impacting FSIS-regulated products. He also chaired the U.S. Codex Policy Steering Committee, an interagency partnership that engages stakeholders in the advancement of science-based international food safety standards to facilitate fair trade. He also served as chair of the National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (NACMCF).
Prior to his appointment, Brian worked for Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT) where he managed issues related to the House Agriculture-FDA Appropriations Subcommittee. He also developed and implemented legislative and communication strategies for policy issues related food safety, nutrition, anti-hunger, medical product safety, and consumer protection.
Washington, D.C. Advisor
Brian Sutter joined the Capitol Hill Consulting Group in 2015 as Senior Vice President. Mr. Sutter joined CHCG from the Ways and Means Committee where he served as Staff Director for the Health Subcommittee under Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI). During his tenure on the Health Subcommittee, Mr. Sutter was actively engaged in crafting a broad range of health care policy. Mr. Sutter worked with Members of Congress, House and Senate leadership and committee and staff to address some of the most pressing health care issues. As a result of these efforts, Mr. Sutter was directly involved with a group of bipartisan, bicameral staff in the development and passing of several bills that were signed into law by President Obama.
Mr. Sutter’s expertise in Medicare and success in shepherding several bills through the legislative process successful has made him a trusted advisor for congressional staff. He was key to crafting legislation leading to major reform of Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) that later passed as the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). Prior to the enactment of MACRA, Mr. Sutter led the development of Congressional priorities for the SGR replacement over two years, with three laws providing relief from SGR cuts, numerous hearings, drafts, public feedback and listening sessions under his watch.
Mr. Sutter was also instrumental in shaping legislation to eliminate or redefine portions of the Affordable Care Act. These changes include the inclusion of income verification for individuals receiving health care subsidies as part of the agreement to reopen the government in 2013; changes to the employer mandate to define 40 hours as the standard work week; and redefining how expatriate American workers living abroad are able to obtain health care. He also staffed then Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, the Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, and Representative Jeb Hensarling for the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (also referred to as the Simpson Bowles Commission) in 2010.
Mr. Sutter served as Professional Staff for the Health Subcommittee, working primarily on Medicare Advantage, Medigap, and Part D. Prior to joining the Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Sutter served as Legislative Director in addition to several other positions for Congressman Camp.
Washington, D.C. Advisor
A graduate of Texas A&M University, Ryan Thompson has served as a professional staff member in the U.S. House of Representatives for thirteen years. He is currently the Chief of Staff to Texas Representative Joe Barton, Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Ryan’s responsibilities include coordinating the Congressman’s activities and priorities between the Energy and Commerce Committee, personal and campaign offices and managing the Washington, DC staff.
In addition to Ryan’s public service career, he has also been active in congressional and local campaigns across Texas. He served as Political Director for a number of Congressman Barton’s successful re-election campaigns. During the 2002 mid-term cycle, he was also a senior staff member of candidate Brad Barton’s congressional campaign for a competitive open seat.
Ryan has dedicated much of his time over the last ten years to organizing the Congressional Baseball Game, which raises a million dollars for local charities each year. This annual bi-partisan and bi-cameral event helps fund three local charities in the Washington, DC area; The Washington Literacy Council, The Boys and Girls Clubs of Washington, DC and the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation. Because of his work with the baseball game, Ryan was presented with the 2013 Champion for Literacy Award on behalf of The Literacy Council.
To further the charitable reach of the baseball game, Ryan founded a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Congressional Sports for Charity Foundation, to ensure that the success of the Congressional Baseball game and other congressional charity events live on for decades to come. In addition to running the day-to-day operations for Congressional Sports for Charity, he also serves as the charity board’s President and Chairman.
Along with the Congressional Sports for Charity, Ryan is involved in many civic activities; his proudest leadership position is his role as President of the Texas State Society in Washington, DC. As a diehard Texan and proud Fightin’ Texas Aggie, the transition to DC was made much easier with the quick friends he made in the Texas State Society.
Before attending Texas A&M, Ryan served four years as a non-commissioned Officer in the United States Marine Corps infantry.
Washington, D.C. Advisor
Lydia Zakhari is Legal Counsel for The Trust (Powered by the NFLPA) and serves on its Senior Leadership Team. Based in Washington, DC, Ms. Zakhari is involved in the administration and management of The Trust and is responsible for leading the diversified legal needs of the multi-faceted organization. In addition to prospecting and evaluating strategic business opportunities, Ms. Zakhari also provides legal support on issues arising from The Trust’s commercial activities, including organizational compliance and the drafting and negotiating of a wide variety of contracts, NDAs, and other commercial and legal commitments.
Before joining The Trust, Ms. Zakhari was an attorney with the firms Carney Badley Spellman, P.S., and Gordon Thomas Honeywell, LLP, located in Seattle, WA. During her time in the private practice she was recognized by Washington Super Lawyers™ magazine, the Super Lawyers™ Business Edition and the Super Lawyers™ Women’s Edition. Ms. Zakhari’s legal experience also includes tenure at Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, LLP and an externship in the chambers of the Honorable Reggie B. Walton, United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
Ms. Zakhari earned her Juris Doctorate from the University of Texas School of Law, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties & Civil Rights, and received her Master’s Degree, with distinction, and Bachelor’s Degree from The American University. She is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and the State of Washington and is a member of the Sports Lawyers Association and the Association of Corporate Counsel.
New York Advisor
Andrew Bua is currently a Senior Legal Counsel in the Team Sports division at Wasserman Media Group,LLC, based in New York. Andrew’s work at Wasserman encompasses many aspects of athlete representation, including athlete-team contracts, endorsement agreements, and a variety of other client matters. These efforts span an array of men’s and women’s sports and businesses worldwide, including baseball, basketball, football, hockey, soccer, broadcasting, coaching/front office, golf, and the Olympics. On a daily basis, Andrew works hand-in-hand with agents, clients, and other Wasserman personnel to help obtain optimal results for Wasserman athletes. Andrew has been at Wasserman since 2017.
Prior to Wasserman Andrew served as Senior Counsel at SoundCloud, where he was the company’s first United States attorney. In addition, he has also spent time at Warner Bros., Viacom, Steinberg Sports and Entertainment, the New York Jets, and New York Mets. Andrew earned his J.D. at St. John’s University School of Law, graduating in 2012. While at St. John’s Law, Andrew was a member of the Entertainment, Arts, and Sports Law Society, as well as the Dispute Resolution Society.
Andrew earned his bachelor’s degree in sports management from St. John’s University, graduating in 2009. Originally from Queens, New York, he resides on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with his wife, Ashley, and their dog.
New York Advisor
Hal Biagas is the founding Executive Director of the NALCS Players Association (“NALCSPA”), a trade association representing the interests and wellbeing of the 100+ professional players of the Riot esports game League of Legends by providing access to information, counsel and the opportunity to voice feedback and enact change.
Hal is also the President and Founder of Sideline Sports Management, a sports agency representing 35+ coaches, broadcasters and executives in the NBA and NCAA basketball, baseball, volleyball and soccer.
Prior to forming the NALCSPA and Sideline, Hal was a Senior Vice President at Excel Sports Management, overseeing the coaching and executive representation business at Excel, representing college and professional coaches in contract negotiations, marketing and sponsorship opportunities, and providing career guidance. Hal also served as General Counsel, overseeing the company’s legal affairs, assessing and resolving issues regarding the company’s clients and advising Excel’s ownership in areas such as corporate governance, labor relations, litigation, marketing, business development and corporate strategy.
Beginning in 2010, Hal worked at Wasserman Media Group as the Executive Vice President of Team Sports. At Wasserman, Hal managed all aspects of the Team Sports division, including oversight of all agent, legal, sports marketing, and public relations activities related to Wasserman’s NBA, WNBA, NFL, MLB, MLS and Olympic Sports clients.
Hal served as Assistant General Counsel of the National Basketball Players Association (“NBPA”) from 1997 to 2010, where he was a key member of the team that negotiated and drafted the 1999 and 2005 NBA/NBPA Collective Bargaining Agreements (“CBA”). Hal’s primary responsibilities included: developing the NBPA’s labor strategy; participating in all matters with the NBA, including negotiations regarding the BRI revenue sharing system which required the review of all arena leases, naming rights and sponsorship agreements, and broadcast contracts; providing legal advice to players and agents on salary negotiations, the salary cap and collective bargaining issues; managing and actively participating in all litigation matters, including the representation of players during grievance hearings; serving on the boards that oversaw the jointly administered benefits with the NBA; and developing and presenting the annual seminar for NBPA certified agents. Hal was also actively involved in the daily operations of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (“WNBPA”) as General Counsel. He was integral in the formation of the WNBPA and the negotiation in 1999 of the first CBA in women’s team sports. Hal served as the lead union negotiator for the 2008 WNBA CBA.
Hal graduated from Boston University with a BA in History and received his JD from UCLA School of Law.
New York Advisor
Angela A. Smedley is a senior litigation associate at Winston & Strawn LLP whose practice focuses on player-side sports litigation and complex commercial litigation for financial services clients.
Much of Angela’s work has involved advocating for the rights of professional athletes in arbitrations and federal court proceedings. In this context, she regularly applies the National Labor Relations Act, the Labor Management Relations Act, and the Federal Arbitration Act to the unique landscape of the professional sports industry. Angela has represented the National Football League Players Association, the National Basketball Players Association, and several individual professional athletes and sports agents in disciplinary appeals, contract disputes, and CBA enforcement proceedings. Representative matters include: Blake Leeper v. IAAF; Antonio Brown v. Oakland Raiders; Antonio Brown v. New England Patriots; Relevent Sports, LLC v. USSF; NFLMC v. NFLPA (Ezekiel Elliott); NFLMC v. NFLPA (Brady/“Deflategate”); NFLPA v. NFL (Adrian Peterson); In re: Ray Rice; White v. NFL (Collusion); and Vilma v. Goodell (New Orleans Saints “Pay-for-Performance/Bounty” Case). While on secondment early in her career, Angela joined the legal department of the National Basketball Players Association and worked directly with the Union to prepare players for the 2011 NBA lockout and to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.
In addition to her sports practice, Angela represents large financial institutions in commercial and class action litigation in federal and state court. She has also defended global corporations against consumer antitrust claims. Angela earned her J.D. from Columbia Law School, where she was a Senior Editor of the Columbia Law Review and President of the Entertainment, Arts & Sports Law Society. She subsequently served as a judicial clerk to the Honorable George B. Daniels in the Southern District of New York. Angela holds an undergraduate degree in Sociology and African-American Studies, magna cum laude, from Harvard University.
New York Advisor
Tony Farina is a graduate of Hofstra University’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law (Class of 2020). His legal experience includes time with Wasserman, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the New York City Office of Collective Bargaining. While serving as President of Hofstra’s Sports and Entertainment Law Society, Mr. Farina organized Hofstra’s first ever Sports Law Roundtable in November 2019, discussing NCAA Name, Image and Likeness concerns in addition to the MiLB Class Action Wage Lawsuits. Mr. Farina was Hofstra’s Dispute Resolution Competition Champion, Finalist and Best Individual Advocate at Fordham’s 2019 NBA Negotiation Competition, and was awarded Hofstra’s Public Service Award Certificate for contributing more than 750 volunteer hours to his community.
Prior to law school, Mr. Farina built a successful management career in the hospitality industry, including the operation of his own consulting business, Farina Hospitality. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Florida Gulf Coast University, where he played for the Men’s Division II ice-hockey team, competing in the American College Hockey Association. He was a 2004 Priority Draft Selection of the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers. His passion for sports, business, and service to others led him to seek out leadership opportunities with SBLA. Mr. Farina resides in Huntington, NY with his wife, Rachel, and their son, Salvatore.
Lou Schieffelin is a high achieving student at the University of Florida studying Political Science on the Pre-Law track. Based in Florida, Ms. Schieffelin is involved with efforts on the Florida House of Representatives floor and on her college campus. As one of the few freshmen involved in Florida Blue Key, Lou was able to work alongside Florida’s most prestigious political leaders, athletes, and change makers. Ms. Schieffelin is also on the board of the Pre-Legal Honor Society as the fundraising chair and grew the club to a record high this past year.
Ms. Schieffelin is the author of “Raise Your Voice, You Can Make a Difference”. A book that has been read to over 7,000 middle and high school students across the state of Florida. This book is dedicated to encourage the younger generation to speak up to adults against distracted driving. A parallel with her work in the Florida House that passed the no texting while driving law which was recently implemented.
Before attending college this past year, Ms. Schieffelin was recognized by The United Nations and honored with the Global Service Award for her work with the Jane Goodall Institute. Having culminated over 800 hours of community service thus far, Lou started her own non-profit called Teens Leadership Live. It encourages kids in the fields of STEAM and brings students together in collaboration with expert mentors to develop feasible solutions to real world problems.
With goals set on Law School and a career in the legal side of the sports industry, Ms. Schieffelin looks forward to being a part of the SBLA team.