Ari Nissim is in his seventh season with the New York Jets, and sixth as the club's Director of Football Administration. His primary responsibilities include serving as the lead negotiator for the majority of the player contracts, managing the team's salary cap, and monitoring club compliance with the NFL CBA and player personnel rules.
Prior to joining the Jets' front office in February 2006, as the Manager of Football Administration, Ari was the staff counsel/director of research for Athletic Resource Management where he assisted in contract negotiations. Also, Ari has experience working for the NFL league office, as he interned with the NFL Management Council during the 2004 season, monitoring and analyzing the league-wide salary cap.
Ari received his bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin in 2000 and his Juris Doctor from Tulane Law School in 2004. While at Tulane, Ari interned with the Jets' pro personnel department during the 2003 training camp, analyzing contract issues and game timing projects. He also served as the Associate Editor-in-Chief of the Sports Lawyers Journal, and his article, "The Trading Game: NFL Free Agency, the Salary Cap, and a Proposal for Greater Trading Flexibility," was published in the 11th edition of the Sports Lawyers Journal. Admitted to practice law in New York State, Ari is one of the Tulane Sports Law Program's most supportive and successful alumni.
Question and Answer:
Why did you choose Tulane?
The sports law program played a big part in my choice. I wanted to go to a top law school that had a national presence and was known for sports. Tulane ultimately was the only choice.
What was your favorite thing to do in New Orleans?
Umm, study, of course!
What's your fondest law school memory?
Getting words of wisdom from Lynn Becnel…. She’s quite a Journal Publication Manager, but an even better person.
What was your favorite class and/or professor at Tulane?
Civil Procedure with Professor Collins; he had a real knack for taking a dry subject and making it really exciting.
How did Tulane help prepare you for your career, specifically which courses and professors were the most important for you?
I think the way law school makes you think helped me most of all. However, the Sports Law classes with Professor Roberts were interesting and have been of use.
While at Tulane, you were The Sports Lawyers Journal Associate Editor-in-Chief and also had an article published in the Journal. What impact did your involvement with The Sports Lawyers Journal have on your career?
The ability to write, research, and publish an article gave me the ability to delve into the salary cap and get a better working knowledge of it so that when it came time to speak to NFL clubs about potential jobs or internships I had a better understanding of the salary cap and could speak their language, thus allowing me the crack in the door I needed to get into the industry.
During your time in law school, you interned for the Jets in their player personnel department in 2003. Also, in 2004 you interned with the NFL Management Council. How were you able to obtain these internships?
There is a fine line between persistency and harassment in obtaining internships, and I was able to walk it after meeting Mike Tannenbaum when he came to speak at Tulane my 1L year. The encounter with Mike eventually led to the internship with the Jets. My work with the Jets during that internship in turn helped me get the internship with the NFL Management Council after I graduated from law school.
What was your job search process like during your 3L year?
My third year was really focused on getting a job as an intern with the NFL Management Council or an NFL Team. I researched the hiring cycles of NFL Teams by reading ESPN and other sports websites, and I planned when to send out my resumes and cover letters to coincide with this time. I also kept in contact with the people in the industry I met along the way. Networking is by far the most important part of breaking into sports. You never know who may lead to the opening you are looking for.
What would you consider to be your "big break" moment while you were trying to break into the sports industry?
My internship with the Jets in 2003. I always felt that if I had the opportunity, that is all I would need, and from there it was on me. I took that internship and never looked back. You can tell the difference when interns truly love what they are doing, instead of if they are there because working for an NFL team seems like a cool job. I never minded stocking the fridge or getting Starbucks as an intern, I was happy to be part of a team, and that hard work and determination came through.
Can you describe your career path and how you got to your current position as Director of Football Administration for the Jets?
I always wanted to work in an NFL front office, and thus when I graduated from college I focused on learning as much about the salary cap as I could by watching ESPN, reading different articles and websites and of course the NFL CBA. All of this came in handy when I was able to get my first internship with the New York Jets. Although I still had a lot to learn, I had a better understanding than many other interns, and this allowed me to hit the ground running.
Currently, you are the lead player contract negotiator for the Jets. How would you say your negotiating style has evolved over the years?
I’ve learned the importance that people place on movement during the negotiation process, thus it’s rare that you can cut right to the chase as is my preference.
In the NFL, a lot of current Directors of Football Administration, such as yourself, have a legal background. Why do you think that is?
I think that a legal background is helpful since you encounter different problems every day, and the most important thing that is taught in law school is how to look at both sides of an argument.
How would you describe a typical work day?
There isn’t a typical work day, which is part of the excitement.
What is the best part of your job?
Loving what I do.
What is the worst part of your job?
Not winning every game.
If you could give one piece of career advice to current students, what would it be?
Do something you love; if you love what you are working on, it doesn’t feel like work. Hard work and determination will take you a lot farther than you think. Finally don’t be afraid to try. It’s better to have tried and failed then to never have tried at all.