Dropping Back to Pass: Lawyer-Athletes

Tim Green got his JD from Ohio Northern University Law School in 1992 and was a coach in Hawaii before returning to law practice. But another Tim Green (Syracuse University Law School) is an author and commentator for National Public Radio and the Fox Sports Network (among many others), jobs he took after playing 8 years for the Atlanta Falcons football team.

Paul Robeson was a noted football player (see under Composers and Musicians). Steve Young, the retired NFL quarterback, holds a law degree from Brigham Young University Law School. Alan Page played with the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings, obtaining a law degree while playing with the Vikings. He was elected an Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court in 1993.

The late Byron “Whizzer” White was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in 1937, got his law degree from Yale and ended up on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Alan Eagleson was a Toronto lawyer who also became an agent and headed the NHL Players Association.

David Treadwell, University of Denver law graduate, was a kicker for the Denver Broncos and had a brief career as a sportscaster.

Baseball has its share of lawyer-managers, including Branch Rickey (Michigan), who integrated baseball by hiring Jackie Robinson as well as creating the “farm system”, Tony LaRussa (Florida State), Hughie Jennings (Cornell), Miller Huggins (Cincinnati), and John Ward (Columbia).

William Shea, a New York, lawyer, worked to bring a major league team back to the Big Apple after the Giants and Dodgers fled the city. Shea Stadium is named for him.

Frank Navin, who was President of the Detroit Tigers team for 32 years, was also trained as a lawyer.

Moe Berg (1902-1972), linguist, spy and baseball player, also earned a law degree from Columbia.

Gene Schroer played baseball sucessfully before earning a law degree from Washburn. For more about law and baseball, see Roger Abrams’s, Legal Bases: Baseball and the Law (1998).

Robert Tyre Jones won all four of the major golf championships in one year (1930) but he made other things look easy, too: he earned a bachelor’s in engineering at Georgia Tech in 2 1/2 years, a master’s in engineering, a degree in literature from Harvard, and then went to Emory to get his law degree; he passed the bar before finishing. His legalistic legacy endures in professional golf play.

Vivien Saunders, also a lawyer, had to sue to regain her amateur status after years as a professional golf instructor.

Dick Button, the Olympic Gold Medalist in Figure Skating, 1948, is also a Harvard Law School grad, admitted to the DC bar, and a sportscaster, a writer, and an Emmy winner.

Karen Weekley is a softball coach at the University of Tennessee and a University of Washington Law School grad.

Western New England College School of Law 2002 Grad Jennifer Blum played wide receiver and defensive back for the Sharks, a team in the Independent Women’s Football League.

Donald Dell joined the ranks of successful tennis players years ago, (he captained the US Davis Cup team) but earned a law degree from the University of Virginia and practiced law in D.C. for a time.

Eugene Scott, who earned a law degree from the University of Virginia in 1965, helped found the National Junior Tennis League, was a champion tennis player himself, and founded Tennis Week Magazine.

Sad to note,  gymnastics coach and University of Denver law graduate Mari-Rae Sopper was among those killed in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon September 11, 2001.

Football players who later became lawyers and who also have the distinction of being Native American include William Gardner and Albert Exendine, both of whom were members of the Carlisle Indian Institute team. Both also earned law degrees from Dickinson School of Law. Gardner joined Eliot Ness’s team of “Untouchables.” After coaching college football, Exendine practiced law with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. For more about lawyers involved in sports see The Political Graveyard.

Bill Lewis was the first Black American football player to be named an All-American. He was also the first Black American to be admitted to the American Bar Association. He served as an U. S. Assistant Attorney General.

Paul Tagliabue was the National Football League’s 4th commissioner. He introduced the notion of the salary cap. Baseball umpires who are lawyers include Jeff Chamberlain (former prosecutor) and Alan S. Goldberger.

Shannon Miller, a member of the 1996 Olympic Gold-winning gymnastics team (she earned 7 Olympic medals), earned a JD from Boston College in 2007. She now runs the Shannon Miller Lifestyle Website and works as a sports analyst. More about her here.

Rutgers Law (2015) grad Ashley Higginson won gold in the 3000 meter steeplechase at the 2015 Pan Am games and won a spot at the 2016 Olympics. She also set a Games record with her win.

Always wanted to be a race car driver but now think that J.D. precludes that kind of fun? In this article for the American Bar Association Journal, David Hudson profiles six attorneys who demonstrate that racing and law have certain similarities.