Currently, she’s the assistant general counsel for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but Bobbi-Sue Doyle-Hazard’s path has been anything but linear. I discovered the podcast before the person, but hearing her story has inspired me as a current graduate student. To me, she exemplifies grit and what it means to mentor and give back to others. I am so grateful Bobbi-Sue took time out of her schedule to talk about current issues in sport law and what inspired her to be a lawyer in the first place. Be sure to check out her Level the Playing Field Podcast, which highlights women in the sports industry.
When did you know you wanted to be a sports lawyer?
”During undergrad at UMass Amherst, I was in the sport management program. One of the required classes was an introduction to sports law. It just clicked with me. I had a feeling I would find it interesting, but it was one of the first classes that I found myself actually engaging and wanting to learn more. I was never a really great student. I am easily bored and prefer to learn by doing. This class really felt good for me. I then took every elective related to sports law that they offered at the time. I knew then that I wanted to be an attorney for a team, league, or players' association.”
You graduated from law school during the economic recession. Can you talk about what you did during that time to get to where you are today?
“When I graduated, the bottom was falling out of the very bloated legal market. Giant law firms were slashing jobs left and right. The trickle down effect was that there were no jobs for those of us coming out of school who weren't in the top 15 of our classes. That may be a bit of an exaggeration but even the smallest of law firms was receiving hundreds of resumes for every job posting. I couldn't find a job. I took on really small matters for family and friends, like a debt collection issue for one. At the same time, I was waitressing. I did that for two years as a licensed attorney. I also started tweeting around this time, Twitter had just come out and there was a large contingency of solo attorneys on there. Twitter was a much different place back then. It was less crowded and making a real connection was possible. That's how I met David Cohen, the man who brought me into sports.”
What inspired you to create the Level the Playing Field podcast?
“In January 2017, I attended the Women's March in DC. I don't care what your politics are; it was one of the most inspiring events I have ever participated in. Then, there was an industry publication with your standard “## Under ##” list and, wouldn't you know, only six women were on that list. It was absurd. I needed a way to harness the energy these things created in me and in a positive manner. I have been listening to podcasts for a couple of years and when I searched around, found nothing focused on women in sports business. There were plenty about women in business, women's sports, sports news by women, but nothing that focused on this niche. Once I came up with the name, it was a no-brainer.”
If you had to choose a legal issue in sports to keep our eye on, what would it be and why?
“The issue that every single person in this country needs to pay attention to, amplify, get angry about, and demand change to fix is the systemic issue in sports that lead to hundreds of young women being sexually abused. MSU and Larry Nassar made news this year but not nearly enough. I have met some of those women. They are incredible. Do you know how much courage it takes to face your abuser in court with the whole world watching, to make the decision to "out" yourself as a survivor? There has been little to no consequences for those in power that allowed this to continue on. Gymnastics isn't the only program in our country that has this problem. Swimming has similar issues but you rarely see the coverage. We can't just let this end with Nassar going to jail. There has to be a greater discussion about keeping our athletes safe. The fact of the matter is that every single person who should have stopped this didn't. Our national governing bodies need to be revamped as do the programs underneath them. People who are true advocates for the athletes need to be given positions on those boards and in those programs as a way to keep everything in check. I am so angry about this and want so badly to help these women and prevent it from happening in the future. All other aspects of sports law or legal issues in sport feel frivolous comparatively.”
Who has been an important mentor to you throughout your career?
“I am fortunate that I have quite a few mentors that have been important in my life. David Cohen, the former general counsel for my organization, brought me to Tampa to be his assistant general counsel and it forever changed my life. He gave me the opportunity to work in an industry that I've always loved. More than that, though, he's a caring, compassionate, business-minded attorney who taught me so much. He's an incredible mentor and friend.”
What are you looking forward to in the near future?
“Oh boy, there's so much coming up! I'm really looking forward to the one-year anniversary of the podcast's launch. I'm attempting to plan some special surprises for listeners. That's in about four months. Generally, this is a fun time of year down here with festivals, concerts, SPORTS, everything. I just love it!”