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Las Vegas Raiders Disclosed New Legal Chief as Jon Gruden Left

Oct. 19, 2021, 9:30 AM

The Las Vegas Raiders have hired Kevin Manara, a longtime in-house lawyer for the National Football League, as the team’s new general counsel while it seeks a contract settlement with former head coach Jon Gruden.

The team disclosed the hire last week on the front office page of its website, according to archived internet records. Manara fills a vacancy left by Daniel Ventrelle, who in July was named interim president of the team following the resignation of former president Marc Badain.

The Raiders, which relocated operations last year to Las Vegas after playing the previous 25 years in Oakland, Calif., are coping with the fallout from the abrupt resignation of Gruden. The coach and the Raiders parted ways last week in the aftermath of the disclosure of racist, misogynistic, and homophobic emails sent by Gruden within the past decade.

Gruden, who publicly apologized for his actions, signed a 10-year, $100 million contract with the Raiders in 2018. NFL.com reported Sunday that the franchise is expected to finalize a settlement of the remaining $40 million on Gruden’s contract.

Manara and the Raiders didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Manara most recently served as vice president of labor relations and policy for the NFL in New York, where he’s worked since 2008, according to the Sports Business Journal. The latter in September cited three anonymous sources putting him in line for the Raiders’ top legal job and noted several other executive hires by the club.

Bloomberg Law reported that same month that within the past year the Raiders have hired associate general counsel Sarah Boyd and Zahir Rahman from their prior positions as associates at Greenberg Traurig and Covington & Burling, respectively.

Manara spent two years as a labor and employment associate at Proskauer Rose before moving in-house at the NFL.

During his time with the league, Manara’s duties often saw him take the lead on labor legal issues related to players and referees, according to an online biography. Manara was part of an NFL team that advised on collective bargaining talks with the NFL Players Association in 2011 and 2020.

He also handled grievance and personal conduct matters involving prominent players such as star quarterback Tom Brady’s “Deflategate” dispute and the suspensions of former running back Ray Rice and linebacker Robert Quinn.

Ventrelle, who Manara is replacing, spent 17 years as legal chief for the Raiders. The team tapped Ventrelle while he was general counsel to oversee a team of lawyers from five outside law firms that represented the team on its relocation to Las Vegas.

An online job listing for the Raiders’ general counsel role posted over the summer said the position will lead the team’s legal function by “providing strategic advice and direction on all” legal and risk matters, as well as “oversee and provide leadership and development to the members” of its in-house legal group.

The Sports Business Journal, citing reports by other news outlets in recent months, previously noted that former Raiders president Badain was one of four team executives to have left the team as it dealt with tax issues related to its relocation.

As for Gruden, while the NFL has said no other personnel have been implicated in an inquiry that collected 650,000 emails from the Washington Football Team, correspondence from the league’s own general counsel Jeffrey Pash has emerged in the trove, according to reports by the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

Jags Hiring New GC

The Raiders aren’t the only NFL team switching up their in-house legal ranks.

The Jacksonville Jaguars, who saw their own head coach make headlines earlier this month over a missed team flight and night out, are currently looking for a new general counsel. Lauren Strackbine, who moved into the role in July after predecessor Cassie McBride joined the National Hockey League’s San Jose Sharks, left the Jaguars on Oct. 1 to reunite with her former in-house colleague.

McBride, now general counsel for the Sharks, told Bloomberg Law via email that she hired Strackbine to be her deputy general counsel as of Oct. 11. Strackbine spent the past five years working for the Jaguars and their owner Shahid Khan, an auto parts billionaire who also controls All Elite Wrestling, a professional wrestling startup for which Strackbine also served as general counsel.

Jaguars spokeswoman Amanda Holt said the team is currently interviewing candidates to replace Strackbine. Megha Parekh, another former Proskauer lawyer, remains chief legal officer for the Jaguars and AEW.

More Football Legal Moves

The Miami Dolphins, who over the weekend lost to the Jaguars in London, this month hired Jones Day commercial disputes counsel Marc Weinroth as a senior director and assistant general counsel.

Weinroth wrote last week in a post on his LinkedIn profile that he’ll work with Dolphins general counsel Myles Pistorius and senior director of legal and government affairs Marcus Bach Armas.

“This is truly a dream job for me, and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to a first-class organization,” said Weinroth, who also now works for Hard Rock Stadium, the Dolphins’ home field.

Weinroth spent more than four years at Jones Day in Miami, where he often represented colleges and universities in sports-related litigation. He previously spent a decade working in-house at the University of Miami and as a commercial litigation associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges.

The Dolphins, owned by former tax lawyer-turned-real estate billionaire Stephen Ross, watched former associate general counsel Brandon Briggs depart in August to become deputy general counsel for Major League Soccer’s Inter Miami CF.

C. David Baker, a California lawyer and former commissioner of the now-defunct Arena Football League, also announced last week his immediate retirement as president and executive director of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The most recent federal tax filing by the National Football Museum Inc., the Hall of Fame’s nonprofit parent, shows that it paid roughly $565,200 to Baker in 2019.

The Hall of Fame has picked Jim Porter, its chief marketing and communications officer, to replace Baker as its head. The Hall of Fame hired Baker in 2014.

Baker played a key role in the eventual formation of the Hall of Fame Resort & Entertainment Co., a for-profit real estate vehicle based in Canton that earlier this year hired former XFL lawyer Timothy Kelly as an assistant general counsel. The public company hired general counsel Tara Charnes in August 2020.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com; John Hughes in Washington at jhughes@bloombergindustry.com

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