— Top Influencer —
Co-Executive Chairman and Co-Chair, Sports Practice, Winston & Strawn
Kessler has worked for decades on behalf of athletes, agents and unions, but may have scored the biggest victory of his career when he argued the NCAA v. Alston case on behalf of college athletes before the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 9-0 decision in June, the high court struck down the legal defense the NCAA has used for decades to justify why its rules don’t violate federal antitrust law. The case has an impact on what colleges and universities can offer in education-related benefits, and marketing rights around an athlete’s name, image and likeness. It also threatens the survival of the NCAA as an organization that passes rules and enforces them against athletes and schools.
Executive Director, MLB Players Association
Clark is the first players union leader to push for significant core economic changes to benefit his members in this century. For the past four years, the MLBPA under Clark’s leadership has included players in midseason bargaining and asked MLB for labor improvements, including an earlier free agency, while preparing constituents for a lockout. Other lockouts since 2000 have been precipitated by the leagues asking players for economic concessions.
Executive Director, NHL Players’ Association
NHL players are set to return to the Olympics for the first time since 2014, under agreements the union negotiated with the International Olympic Committee, International Ice Hockey Federation and the league in September. The agreements include an opt-out for situations related to the pandemic. The NHLPA also has the highest vaccination rate in North American pro sports, with only one player who is unvaccinated.
Executive Director, NFL Players Association
Smith made more lucrative business deals involving NFL player marketing rights, while fighting off another effort by players to oust him as leader of what has been a divided union. OneTeam Partners, a business venture created by the NFLPA under Smith, has reportedly created more than $1 billion in revenue, and the union inked a 20-year deal with Fanatics for trading cards.