Three students with a deep passion for sports law received the 2024 Weiler Awards during the Harvard Committee on Sports & Entertainment Law’s annual Harvard Sports Law Symposium. 

Established in 2008, the Weiler Awards honor of Paul C. Weiler, Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School, considered to be the founder of American sports law and one of America’s foremost labor law scholars. Weiler passed away in 2021 after a long illness; “Paul represented the best of our profession and of the legal academy,” said former Harvard Law School Dean John F. Manning ’85. This year’s award recipients, Kellen Dugan ‘24, Peyton Bush ‘24, and Sam Spurrell ‘24, have participated in many sports law courses, writing projects, and clinical placements at HLS.  

We caught up with the Weiler Scholar awardees to learn about their work in the Sports Law Clinic and how the Sports Law program has shaped their HLS experience and future aspirations. 

Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs (OCP): What sparked your interest in taking the Sports Law Clinic?  

Peyton Bush: Growing up in Kentucky, where college sports permeate the culture, I’ve always been a big sports fan. I especially love how sports bring together communities—some of my favorite memories are attending University of Kentucky basketball games with family and friends. Because of my lifelong love of sports, along with my interest in corporate law, the Harvard sports law program seemed like a perfect fit for me. My experience in the program has exceeded all my expectations.   

Kellen Dugan: For as long as I can remember, sports have been a central part of my life. Growing up in Cleveland, I have been hard-wired to be a diehard sports fan, regardless of success or outcome (see, e.g. the Cleveland Browns). Further, my parents fostered a love of playing sports from a very young age, especially baseball. Though my competitive playing years were limited to two decades, my love of sports transcended playing, and I’ve always sought to be around sports in whatever capacity that I can. Soon after arriving on campus, I became involved in the Sports Law Community here at HLS, including joining CSEL and taking Professor Carfagna’s classes. Coming in with a love of sports and having enjoyed Professor Carfagna’s classes, I knew that the Sports Law Clinic was the right place for me. 

Sam Spurrell: While taking Professor Carfagna’s “Sports and the Law: Representing the Professional Athlete” course, I realized I hadn’t sufficiently considered sports law as a career path. As a lifelong sports fan and former athlete, I quickly discovered that the infusion of sports into my legal coursework made me connect with my work that much more. I decided to dive headfirst into the HLS sports law curriculum and took all available sports law classes, and also worked as Professor Carfagna’s teaching assistant for the Representing the Professional Athlete course the following year. For me, the Sports Law Clinic was the culmination of my time at HLS and allowed me to apply the knowledge and skills I’d build in the classroom into practice.   

OCP: Where have your clinical placements through the Sports Law Clinic been? What type of work did you do during your externships? What did you enjoy about it?  

Bush: I had the unique opportunity to extern at UCFB in London during Winter Term. As part of that externship, I completed rotations at eight London law firms, mostly focusing on legal issues facing the soccer industry.   
During my externship in London, I most enjoyed learning about international corporate law and studying a new sports league with which I was previously unfamiliar. I also appreciated the opportunity to develop a professional network in London with lawyers and professionals in the sports industry. Outside of work, I enjoyed exploring London, seeing shows in the West End, attending football matches, and getting a taste of everyday life in London.   

Dugan: I spent my 3L J-Term at The Advisory, which is a full-service agency and business law advisory. The Advisory was founded by alumnus Jimmie Strong ‘14. At the Advisory, I had the opportunity to perform a variety of different tasks, ranging from creative business pitches to client strategy meetings to contract drafting for sponsorship deals. I loved that each day brought a different set of activities, and I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to see transactions happen from start to finish, beginning with strategy meetings with clients and ending with a signature after creative negotiation sessions.  

I spent my 3L spring term working remotely for NOCAP Sports, which is a leading athlete marketing technology and services company, with a primary focus on the NIL space. At NOCAP, I worked under the Chief Compliance Officer, Casey Floyd, and I spent my time working with my clinic partner on building out some of NOCAP’s core program contracts. Throughout my time at NOCAP, I had a blast developing and honing my transactional skills. Further, I had the opportunity to address some interesting legal questions that exist at the intersection of sports and business law. 

Spurrell: My placement was with the Washington Capitals as a Hockey Operations and Legal Intern. My primary responsibility was working with the Assistant General Manager to prepare the team for contract negotiations and salary arbitration. For example, I would compare a Capitals player with another NHL player and argue why the Capitals player deserved to be compensated less/equal/more than his comp. I also did a project related to teams’ salary cap positions for the next two years. Through my work, I not only developed my legal writing skills, but my knowledge of the game of hockey expanded considerably.   

OCP: What were your biggest takeaways from the experiential learning of the Sports Law Clinic?  

Bush: Although Professor Carfagna’s classes provided an incredible foundation for the clinic, there’s no substitute for working on real projects. To that end, the clinic was a tremendous education experience. I was also impressed with how tight-knit the sports law community is and the extent to which established professionals in the industry seek to mentor the next generation of sports lawyers. My biggest takeaway is the importance of forming relationships across the industry.   

Dugan: I think my biggest takeaway from the Sports Law Clinic is that the key to success is viewing every experience as an opportunity: to learn something new, to develop practical skills, to make yourself a better lawyer, and, most importantly, to connect with individuals in a meaningful way.   

Spurrell: “Sports law” is an umbrella term that covers any intersection between sports and the law. Within that sports law umbrella, though, player operations work is among the most exciting facets. In many ways, player operations personnel are no different than the millions of North American sports fans – they just also happen to make a living out of their fandom. Player operations work is highly variable and having a legal background is valuable in certain components of managing a team. In short, working in player operations is challenging but, for those who are passionate about a given sport, it is also a blast.   

OCP: What does the Weiler Scholar Award mean to you?  

Bush: I am so honored to receive the Weiler Scholar Award. Professor Weiler is a legend at HLS for starting the sports law program, which has become such an important part of my and many other students’ experiences at HLS. I also wish to thank Professor Carfagna, who is continuing Professor Weiler’s incredible legacy of mentoring and supporting HLS students. Receiving an award in Professor Weiler’s name is a great honor and I hope to represent him well in the future.  

Dugan: I’ve known Professor Carfagna for a long time, and for as long as I’ve known him, Professor Carfagna has spoken of the immense and profound impact that Professor Weiler had on the Sports Law community, the HLS Community, and, most importantly, the people around him. To have the honor of receiving an award in the name of someone who has had such an impact on those around him and has occupied such stature in the community as Professor Weiler is not something that I take lightly or for granted. I am exceedingly grateful to be chosen, and I hope to live up to such a shining example. To Florrie Darwin and the Weiler family, to Professor Carfagna, and to everyone who makes the Weiler Scholar Award possible, thank you so much for this tremendous honor and privilege. 

Spurrell: Winning the Weiler Writing Prize was the capstone of my HLS sports law experience – really, my entire HLS experience. I was a competitive swimmer for eighteen years, though it has now been six years since I last raced. In writing a paper about swimming, I was able to re-don a part of my identity I thought I’d left in the past. As much as I found myself in that paper, I also found myself in HLS’s sports law program. It was fitting.   

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Tags: Class of 2024, Sports Law Clinic

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