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Zola ’89 Discusses A-Rod Legal Team

Warren Zola ’89, assistant dean for graduate programs and adjunct associate professor of business law and operations and strategic management departments at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management, was recently quoted in a New York Times article about New York Yankee baseball player Alex Rodriguez. The article, “In Fight for Legacy, Rodriguez Fields Costly Team of All-Stars,” focuses on the team of legal, public relations and other advisers Rodriguez has assembled to work for him as he appeals a 211-game suspension. Zola regularly advises athletes preparing to turn professional athlete.

“Everyone has a right to the best defense money can buy, and Alex Rodriguez has got a lot of money, so he’s bought a lot of defense,” Zola is quoted.

Zola earned a B.A. in economics and completed Honors at the Colleges. He was a member of the cross country and basketball teams and worked at WEOS-FM as a student. He earned his MBA with concentrations in finance and strategic management from Boston College, Carroll Graduate School of Management, and his J.D. from Tulane University Law School, where he founded the Sports Law Society.

The author of the Law Review article, “Going Pro in Sports: Improving Guidance for Student-Athletes in a Complicated Legal and Regulatory Framework,” Zola is a frequent contributing writer to “The Sports Law Blog” honored by Fast Company as one of Three Best Sports Business Blogs and by the American Bar Association Journal as a Top 100 Law Blog.

He is also a contributing writer to the Huffington Post on matters related to the transition of student-athletes from college to the professional leagues. His latest article is “Transitioning from the NCAA to the NBA: Time for a Change in the Rules.” He has also contributed a chapter titled “Demystifying the Transition from College Football to the NFL: What Really Happens” in the upcoming book “Sports for Dorks College Football 2011.”

The full article follows.

New York Times
In Fight for Legacy, Rodriguez Fields Costly Team of All-Stars

Steve Eder • September 23, 2013

With Alex Rodriguez, everything is always outsize, from his $275 million contract, to his gaudy home run totals, to the vitriol he faces at nearly every major league baseball stadium.

So it is fitting that as he prepares to appeal his 211-game suspension – baseball’s longest doping punishment – he has a supersize team of advisers to counsel him in a showdown that could define, or destroy, his legacy.

The case carries considerable weight for both sides. A lengthy suspension could cost Rodriguez roughly $32 million in lost salary, and perhaps end his career. Major League Baseball sees the suspension as a symbol of its efforts to fight doping, which has ensnared many of the sport’s biggest names in recent years.

If Rodriguez manages to get his suspension reversed, it will be a devastating embarrassment for the league. And that is exactly what his blue-chip lawyers have been assembled to make happen.

ARod Corp., as Rodriguez’s corporate entity is officially known, has on retainer more than a dozen advisers, including well-known lawyers, public-relations experts, and an investigative firm led by a former federal agent. The lawyers are from three prominent law firms: Gordon & Rees; Tacopina Seigel & Turano; and Reed Smith, an international firm with more than 1,800 lawyers that specializes in representing financial institutions.

The team includes Joseph Tacopina, one of New York’s most aggressive and widely known lawyers, who in 2011 won the acquittal of two New York police officers charged with raping a drunken woman.

There is also Guidepost Solutions, a private investigative firm run by Andrew O’Connell, a former federal prosecutor and Secret Service agent who helped Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, gain a dismissal in the sexual assault case against him.

Rodriguez’s personal spokesman is Ron Berkowitz, a high-end public-relations consultant who counts Jay-Z among his other clients, and has guided Rodriguez through an endless barrage of bad publicity in recent months.

All that help does not come cheap. ARod Corp.’s team of advisers probably costs hundreds of thousands of dollars a month, according to people familiar with the case.

“Everyone has a right to the best defense money can buy, and Alex Rodriguez has got a lot of money, so he’s bought a lot of defense,” said Warren Zola, a professor of sports law at Boston College.

The legal team is set to appear next Monday during a closed hearing at the commissioner’s office, where it will square off against Major League Baseball’s own formidable team of lawyers, including its own outside lawyers, at Rodriguez’s arbitration hearing. The hearing is being overseen by Fredric Horowitz, an independent arbiter chosen by Major League Baseball and the players union. Arguments are expected to last about five days.

Rodriguez’s personal lawyers will be flanked by ones from the players association.
The hearing will come a day after the regular season ends and just as the postseason is about to begin – in all likelihood without the Yankees. Rodriguez rejoined the team last month and has been playing surprisingly well after a long injury layoff. His home run with the bases loaded last week won an important game for the Yankees and allowed him to surpass Lou Gehrig’s career grand slam record. But this year, it will be his legal team, probably not his baseball team, competing in October.

It is fair to say that the sports world has never before seen anything like A-Rod’s carefully assembled A-team. Balancing the collection of substantial egos has been a delicate task, but with the proceedings date approaching, the team appears to have jelled, according to interviews with people not authorized to speak publicly.

Tacopina, a seasoned trial lawyer who charges $950 an hour and has represented the disgraced former New York City police commissioner Bernard B. Kerik and the former New York state senator Hiram Monserrate, will be the courtroom performer. His job is to grill baseball’s witnesses and publicly defend Rodriguez, even if that means pitting him against the Yankees, as he did in interviews this summer.

David Cornwell is the sports law expert, hired for his fluency in the game’s legal arcana. He carries baseball’s union contract with him at all times, and has worked on numerous cases representing professional athletes. A partner with Gordon & Rees, Cornwell is the point person on baseball’s voluminous contract with the union and on doping rules. At the arbitration, he will be the one challenging baseball on its application of the rules, as well as dissecting any scientific evidence.

Cornwell has succeeded in doping cases before. He represented Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers in his landmark victory during doping arbitration early last year. In that case, Braun tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone after a playoff game, but the arbitrator threw out his suspension, agreeing with Cornwell’s argument that Braun’s sample had been improperly handled. (Cornwell did not represent Braun when he later accepted a 65-game ban.)

Since this spring, lawyers from Reed Smith, a large, old-line Pittsburgh law firm with offices in more than 25 cities in the United States and overseas, have been advising Rodriguez behind the scenes.

James McCarroll, who heads the firm’s investment management group, has been a sort of legal maestro, coordinating the expansive team. Another Reed Smith partner, Jordan Siev, a co-leader of the firm’s United States commercial litigation group, is the team’s point person on litigation preparation.

Above them all sits their client, Rodriguez, a mercurial figure who has stayed in close touch with his team of advisers, even during the Yankees’ uphill playoff push. He participates in conference calls and stays in touch mostly via e-mail, according to people familiar with the situation.

His group has been in flux – a previous incarnation included other high-profile advisers: Jay Reisinger, a lawyer from Pittsburgh with a long history of representing baseball players in doping cases; Roy Black, a veteran trial lawyer from Miami; and Terry Fahn, a public-relations consultant from Sitrick and Company. But now, his team appears to be set and is poised to challenge the credibility of baseball’s witnesses at the arbitration hearing. Rodriguez and his advisers have declined to say publicly whether he took performance-enhancing drugs, citing a confidentiality clause, but Tacopina has said that Rodriguez should not be suspended for a single game, let alone 211.

Rodriguez’s 211-game suspension was far longer than the punishment handed down to 13 other baseball players connected to Biogenesis, a South Florida anti-aging clinic. The other players, a group that included stars like Braun, and Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers, accepted their suspensions, which ranged from 50 to 65 games.

Part of the Rodriguez team’s strategy rests on discrediting baseball officials. Guidepost, the investigative firm, has gathered information about the tactics of baseball investigators and the credibility of its witnesses and information, all of which is likely to be used to raise questions about the league’s case at the hearing.

Baseball officials believe that their case is strong and that they have ample evidence to support the suspension, citing Rodriguez’s “use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited, performance-enhancing substances” over many years.

Baseball’s legal team is not likely to be intimidated by the Rodriguez group. It is led by Robert Manfred, an executive vice president for Major League Baseball for 15 years, who handles the league’s collective bargaining relationship with the players association. The roster includes lawyers from Proskauer Rose, an international law firm, which claims that it “practically invented the practice” of sports law.

The sports world and the legal world will be closely watching the case.

“The issue that I think is going to be real significant is whether the punishment fits the crime,” said Matt Mitten, a professor at Marquette University who teaches a class with baseball’s commissioner, Bud Selig, but who is not involved in the case.

“This will set a precedent, at least within baseball, as to what might be appropriate for these types of offenses, where the parties can’t agree.”
Peter Lattman contributed reporting.