Sports law is a distinct niche area in the practice of law. A comprehensive understanding of the field requires familiarity with a range of legal concepts including labor law, torts, contracts, intellectual property and constitutional law. This guide will concentrate on sources specifically devoted to sports law. The thorough research of many aspects of sports law will likely necessitate exploration beyond the resources described below.

There are three categories in sports law- amateur, professional and international sports. While each has unique issues and characteristics, some issues are common to all. Examples of common issues include injury to participants or spectators, discrimination, drugs and drug testing. 

Amateur athletes include students or adults engaging in intramural, inter-collegiate or interscholastic activities. Schools at all levels may contend with issues involving eligibility or scholarships. Amateur sports are governed by numerous entities. The best known of these, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), regulates eligibility and recruiting for a multitude of sports. The NCAA also regulates sportsmanship and the use of banned substances. Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, 20 U.S.C. 1681 et seq. is particularly significant to scholastic and collegiate sports. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in sports programs of schools that receive federal funds. The Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Title IX resources page has statutes, regulations and other valuable information.

The law of professional sports is heavily concentrated on issues concerning the relationship between professional athletes, their teams and their agents. Consequently, contracts, labor and agency law dominate sports law at the professional level. Professional sports teams & leagues may also be subject to federal antitrust laws, although numerous exemptions to the antitrust laws have been carved out for sports over the years.

The research of international sports frequently begins with the International Olympic Committee. The IOC has a charter and bylaws and operates in cooperation with federations of individual sports. The Olympic Charter is the most important document in international sports. It defines the rights and responsibilities of the federations and the national Olympic committees.   Federations also typically have both laws and regulations. The Court of Arbitration for Sport and the World Anti-Doping Agency both regulate international sports. A comprehensive guide to researching international sports law can be found at GlobaLex.

Treatises are excellent starting points for researching sports law. Sports Law in a Nutshell (Reserve KF3989.Z9 C48 2000) offers a basic introduction to the topic. Greater depth can be found in treatises such as Fundamentals of Sports Law (KF3989 .C45 2004) (Westlaw- sportslaw) or Essentials of Sports Law (KF3989 .W66 2010). The Law of Professional and Amateur Sports (KF3989 .L38 2002) is a comprehensive, multi-volume looseleaf treatise.  

Additional general treatises as well as treatises on specific aspects of sports law can be found by using BEN, the Cardozo Library catalog. Use keyword or subject searches. Appropriate subject headings include:



    college sports


    liability for sports accidents

    professional sports 

    sports– law and legislation

Many journal and law review articles as well as ALR annotations have been written on sports law. Search full-text sources such as Bloomberg Law, LexisNexis, Westlaw, and HeinOnline.  The Marquette Sports Law Review (P MA766)(Westlaw - marqslr)(LexisNexis - lawrev;msplr)(HeinOnline) publishes an annual bibliography of sports law articles found in law reviews and journals. Additional articles can be identified with the Index to Legal Periodicals (Reference K33.I5) (BEN) or the Current Law Index (Reference K33.C85) (LexisNexis - lawrev;lglind)(Westlaw - lri). Numerous journals are specifically devoted to sports and entertainment law. To locate them, conduct a subject search in BEN for Sports Law and Legislation United States Periodicals.

Sports related case law can be located either through citations found in sources such as treatises and articles, or through searches on LexisNexis, Westlaw, Bloomberg Law or other legal databases. The most appropriate Topic in the West digest system is ‘Public Amusement and Entertainment’, but other Topics, such as ‘Antitrust Law’,’ Negligence’, or ‘Civil Rights’ should also be consulted.

At the international level, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and World Anti-Doping Agency have case law on their web sites. Digests of CAS cases can be found in the library (K3702 .R43). A collection of sports related case law from the United States, Europe & Canada can be found on the Olympic web site.

Some sports law issues require locating statutes and regulations at either the federal or state level. At the federal level, there are significant statutes and regulations regarding discrimination and antitrust law. Horse-racing and boxing are both highly regulated by the states. Several states, including New York, have adopted the Uniform Athlete Agents Act, which regulates the actions of agents representing athletes. Use secondary sources, indexes or full-text searches to locate statutes and regulations.

Current Awareness

Sports blogs are excellent current awareness tools. Particularly good ones include Sports Law Blog, Title IX Blog, and Law in Sport.