Mary has been working with Pop Warner since 2003 concentrating on business development, fundraising and licensing for Pop Warner, and is responsible for all marketing, operations, strategic planning and policy writing. Mary’s work focuses on drafting contracts, proposals and organizational policies. Mary also manages the Internship Program working closely with many area universities to provide opportunities for students, and oversees all organizational communications and public relations.
Mary received a JD/MBA from Tulane University where she served as Editor-in-Chief of The Sports Lawyers Journal and President of the Sports Law Society. Mary’s publications include “The Court of Arbitration for Sport: Doping and Due Process During the Olympics” and “Sports Law.” Mary continues to serve on the Tulane Sports Law Advisory Board acting as a mentor for current students looking to start their careers in the sports industry. Prior to joining Pop Warner, Mary was Manager of Business & Legal Affairs at Fox Sports in Los Angeles, and also clerked for the National Football League and worked for the NHL’s Minnesota Wild as they prepared for their inaugural season.
Mary serves as President of the NFL Research & Education Foundation Board and also serves as a Board Member for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes’ Earn Your Stripes Program which focuses on keeping kids healthy and active. She holds memberships in the Sports Lawyers Association, & Women in Sports & Events (WISE), and volunteers for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Our Mother of Consolation Church, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training Program and various animal welfare groups in Philadelphia.
Mary is an avid Giants fan from New York City who resides in Philadelphia with her husband, son and various other four legged family members.
Question and Answer:
What was your favorite class and professor at Tulane?
As a 1L, I enjoyed Ponoroff’s Contracts, I loved any class with Prof. Carbonneau, and of course Sports Law was worth the wait.
What was your favorite thing to do in New Orleans?
So much to choose from, but I guess the things I miss the most are the fabulous array of live music and running along the levee.
What's your fondest law school memory?
Publishing The Sports Lawyers Journal and celebrating everyone’s hard work at our final sports law banquet.
Why did you choose Tulane?
I was originally planning to stay in NYC and attend school part-time while I continued working, but Tulane’s Sports Law Curriculum was so impressive it was the only out of area program to which I applied. I visited to check out the school and the city and I never looked back.
What are the ways in which Tulane helped to prepare you for your career? Which courses and professors were the most important for you?
The overall legal training proves valuable in a myriad of circumstances, and the clinical courses and seminars are what makes Tulane’s program stand out. Practical training atop an excellent legal foundation prepares you well for whatever you may encounter in your career path, and the relationships you form are equally as important. Particularly, the intellectual property courses and seminars in arbitration and mediation were most remarkable.
What made you want to work in sports law?
I am one of 8 kids and growing up in NYC sports was always a central factor in our lives. I was working as a reinsurance consultant traveling and enjoying the analytical and transactional elements of my work, yet felt the subject matter was less than scintillating. In Scottsdale, Arizona, after a late business dinner, a client started taking insurance files out in the parking lot and I knew I wanted to be passionate about what I do in my career, and for me that included the industry not just the job duties.
Describe your career path:
As a 1L, I joined the Society and began networking with the help of great alums like Tandy O’Donoghue and Mike Tannenbaum. I started seeking internships and advice. I worked at a law firm part-time in school which did some work with the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation and gave me the opportunity to work on those contracts. In my second year, we organized a Symposium in order to provide students with more opportunities to interact with members of the industry, and this led to my first internship at the NFL Management Council, which enabled me to realize I wanted to be more involved in the business end and not just the legal side, so I decided to take my GMAT’s and worked to obtain my MBA. Attending Sports Lawyers Association Conferences and keeping in contact with other industry professionals I had spoken with enabled me to obtain another internship, and when my post-grad job at a sports media company fell through after the dot.com bust, I was able to work for the NFL for the season until I found a full-time position at FOX, through the assistance of a Tulane alum who was there and passed my resume along. When the NFL Youth Fund was looking for a business and legal person to help Pop Warner, my name surfaced and returning to football was too tempting to pass up, so I left the LA sunshine for Philadelphia and here I am nine years later.
How would you describe a typical work day?
There is no set routine which I love, but usually involves some or all of the following - drafting contracts or proposals, clarifying policy positions, negotiating deal terms, fielding questions from volunteers, planning for events, traveling to meet with partners and programs, and looking for room in the budget.
How would you compare your work at FOX to your work at Pop Warner? Are they similar in any way?
At my brief time at FOX I was able to do a lot of transactional work which helped me as I set out to draw up business contracts at Pop Warner and solidify our rules and policies. Both are similar in that at FOX the national sales and marketing team served as a resource for all of the sales reps in the field and at National Pop Warner, we play a similar role for our regional and league administrators.
What is the best part of your job?
I love helping people, so playing a small part in exposing kids to sports while emphasizing the importance of academics is truly a perk, and meeting people from all across the world keeps life interesting.
What is the worst part of your job?
People with their own agendas who interfere with the success of the program. Thankfully the wonderful volunteers and staff I work with outweigh those people by far.
What do you like best about your career?
I like not knowing what lies ahead – new challenges, new opportunities, new connections. There is always more to do, and finding ways to improve our programs and help more kids keeps me energized.
If you could give one piece of advice to current students, what would it be?
Quite simply - don’t rule anything out – all our paths are different. Get involved as a student as much as possible – join the Sports Law Society, obtain internships, start writing, attending events, and don’t be afraid to reach out to alums and others who want to help you. Learn how to differentiate yourself but stay faithful to your skill set and goals. If economic reasons dictate you need to work elsewhere, honing your skills in another industry may be the best means for a successful sports law career later on.
What do you think a law student’s biggest misconception may be about practicing sports law?
That they will be satisfied in their careers because of the name on the door instead of focusing on the type of work they will be doing. Try out as many things as you can so you can learn what type of work you enjoy and what types to avoid.
What do you think is the biggest issue in sports law/business today?
Athlete health and safety.
What do you think will be the biggest issue in sports law/business in five years?
I think we will see new intellectual property issues arise as leagues expand globally and as new media develops.
Which areas of the law are most germane to your practice?
Contracts, Torts, and IP.
Mary Fitzgerald’s Publications Include:
“The Court of Arbitration for Sport: Doping and Due Process During the Olympics.” 7 Sports Law J. (2000).
“Sports Law,” Book Review, 6 Sports Law J. (1999).