As the XFL stages what it has already dubbed the “greatest comeback in sports history,” the alternative professional football league has scored gridiron-loving Tampa lawyer Roxanne Kosarzycki as its new general counsel.
“I didn’t go to law school to become a lawyer per se,” Kosarzycki told Corporate Counsel on Thursday. “I went to break into football. That has always been my first passion.”
She secured an internship with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders during her first year at Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles in 1990. And when she graduated, she joined the Raiders full-time and served as senior legal counsel until 2004.
That same year, she left Oakland and headed to the East Coast to serve as the top lawyer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers until 2009. She later transitioned out of the sports world and became vice president and corporate counsel for Global Imaging Systems, a business technology company in Tampa.
Unsurprisingly, she was ready to get back into the game when the XFL came calling.
“What we’re looking to do is reimagine football. It’s going to be more fan-centric and faster,” said Kosarzycki, who begins her new job at the XFL this week. She’ll be working with the league’s new commissioner, Oliver Luck, a former NFL quarterback and associate at Fulbright & Jaworski, now Norton Rose Fulbright.
Their celebrity boss, Vince McMahon, billionaire pro wrestling promoter and WWE’s self-proclaimed “high muck-a-muck,” pushed the XFL into a short-lived and disappointing existence in 2001— and his hastily built house came crashing down after just one season.
This time McMahon is taking a beat before the second kickoff, which he’s set for 2020.
“We’ve given ourselves over a year to work through everything and try not to rush this,” Kosarzycki said.
The new legal quarterback is staring down a long field where many unsettled details lie ahead for the XFL’s resurrection, including ironing out TV and licensing deals as the league plans to enter at least eight as-yet undisclosed markets. And then there’s the issue of player contracts, which have already led to a feud with the Alliance of American Football, another alternative league.
The AAF is reportedly including 18-month noncompete provisions in its player contracts to keep its talent from switching to the XFL, said Kosarzycki, who called the contracts in question “unfortunate.”
“It’s interesting because the AAF has definitely come out strong from what I understand,” she added.
Aside from dealing with contract issues, Kosarzycki said she’ll be involved in creating and implementing medical protocols to address looming concerns about concussions and other injuries. She’ll also have a hand in the workers’ compensation program for injured players.
The first XFL did away with NFL rules such as fair catches, point-after-touchdown kicks and coin tosses to determine who received the kickoff. Instead of a traditional kickoff, one player from each team raced side-by-side to be the first to grab a football waiting 20 yards downfield, which resulted in at least one significant injury.
The new XFL will be much safer, according to Kosarzycki, though she said it was too early to give specifics on the new rules. McMahon also has stressed the importance of player safety without providing many details.
“As a startup league, there’s a lot on the table,” Kosarzycki said. “There’s a lot going on from the legal side.”