Jonathan L. Israel


Jonathan L. Israel


Jonathan L. Israel is a partner and litigation attorney with Foley & Lardner LLP, where he is the co-chair of the Sports Industry Team. He advises clients on a wide variety of traditional labor and general employment matters, both in the United States and internationally with a focus on the sports industry. His experience includes negotiating executive, coaching and players contracts in professional, collegiate and Olympic sports; negotiating and administering collective bargaining agreements, including in professional sports, television broadcasting and entertainment venue/sports arena operations; arbitrating grievances and disputes, including international player clearance issues; and litigating labor-management disputes before courts and the National Labor Relations Board.

Representative Experience*

  • Previously the assistant general counsel at the National Basketball Association, where he served as in-house counsel to the NBA and its affiliated entities and teams on labor and employment, litigation, and general corporate matters.
  • Obtained summary judgment for the New York Jets in a trademark infringement action involving the team’s use of the phrase “Ultimate Fan” in web applications and computer games.
  • Thompson v. WNBA (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (obtained dismissal of fraud action of former head coach and general manager of the Houston Comets for lack of jurisdiction).
  • Representation of an NBA team on player contract issues under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
  • Advises clients, including the NBA, on general business operations and labor and employment issues internationally, including in China and throughout Europe.
  • Arbitrating grievances and disputes, including for the NBA and its teams on player discipline and contract disputes and international player clearance issues; for a Major League Baseball team in salary arbitration; and for various corporate employers in connection with the enforcement of collective bargaining agreements and employee work rules.

* Note, certain of the above representations were handled by Jon prior to his joining Foley.

Jon practices in diverse industries outside of sports, including entertainment, media, financial services, hedge and private equity funds, transportation, and retail.


In 2012, Jon was recognized by The Legal 500 United States.


Jon earned his law degree from Columbia Law School where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar (J.D., 1993). His undergraduate degree was conferred, cum laude, from Harvard University (B.A., 1987).

Following law school, Jon served as a law clerk to the Honorable Alfred M. Wolin of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey (1993-1994).

Admissions and Professional Memberships

Jon is admitted to practice in New York and New Jersey. He is a member of the Sports Lawyers Association.

Selected Publications and Presentations

  • Speaker, “A Pound of Prevention: Legal Compliance and the Medical Treatment of Athletes in Professional Sports,” Lawline Program, New York, NY
  • Speaker, “Managing the Workplace of the Future,” Aon Consulting Industry Symposium, New York, New York (June 13, 2012)
  • Speaker, “Employers and Workplace Retaliation: Overcoming Fears and Avoiding Claims,” New Jersey Law Journal In-House Counsel Seminar, Florham Park, New Jersey (November 2011)
  • Author, “Has the Legal Tide Turned Against Retired Professional Athletes Seeking California Workers’ Compensation Benefits?” Sports Litigation Alert, Volume 10, Issue 5 (March 22, 2013)
  • Author, “Developments in Workers’ Compensation Law Cloud Future for Retired Professional Athletes,” Sports Litigation Alert, Volume 7, Issue 12 (July 2010)
  • Author, “Independent Contractors: Challenging Times Ahead for Businesses in Light of Government Attention,” New York Law Journal (March 2010)

Representative Experience*

  • Upshaw v. Detroit Pistons Basketball Co. (E.D. Mich.) (represented NBA team in tort action)
  • Krystal C. v. New York Jets, LLC (N.J. Super. Ct.) (successfully managed putative wage/hour class action brought by former team cheerleaders)
  • Action Ink v. New York Jets, LLC (E.D. La.) (obtained summary judgment for NFL team in a trademark infringement action involving the team’s use of the phrase “Ultimate Fan”), aff’d (5th Cir.)
  • Thompson v. WNBA (S.D.N.Y.) (obtained dismissal of fraud action by former head coach and general manager of the Houston Comets)
  • Major U.S. university and athletic department (represented university in employment discrimination litigation brought by former coach)
  • Multiple college sports “collectives” (advising on contractual and operational matters concerning the commercialization of the name, image, and likeness (“NIL”) rights of college athletes)
  • Professional sports leagues and teams (advising on issues relating to team medical staff operations)
  • Professional sports teams and colleges (negotiating executive and coaching contracts)
  • Industry-Leading Esports & Video Gaming Company (advise company on proposed investment and commercial transactions with leading music and entertainment company)
  • Industry-Leading Multi-Game Esports Team (prepare, negotiate, and analyze professional player, staff, and influencer contracts, including for North American League of Legends Championship Series)
  • In re Palumbo (New York Life Insurance Co.) (N.Y. DOL Appeal Board) (obtained reversal of agency decision classifying independent agent as employee)
  • Grenawalt v. AT&T Mobility, LLC (S.D.N.Y.) (obtained summary judgment and dismissal of putative FLSA and New York state law collective and class action for unpaid overtime wages)
  • Newton-Haskoor v. Coface North America (D.N.J.) (obtained dismissal of sex discrimination and whistleblower claims against client), aff’d (3d Cir.)
  • Coface Collections North America v. Newton (D. Del.) (obtained preliminary injunction enforcing non-compete and other restrictive covenants against former president and seller of business acquired by client), aff’d (3d Cir.)
  • Mohamed v. Deutsche Bank Securities, Inc. (FINRA arbitration) (obtained arbitration panel award denying former employee’s action against client for fraud, breach of contract, and wrongful termination)

* Matters handled prior to joining Foley.

Awards and Recognition

  • Recognized, Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business both in Sports Law and in Esports (2021-2023)
  • Recognized, The Best Lawyers in America®
    • Litigation – Labor and Employment (2020-2024)
    • Sports Law (2023)
  • Recognized, The Legal 500 United States


  • Member, Sports Lawyers Association