Jonathan L. Israel



Jonathan L. Israel is a partner and an experienced sports and labor/employment attorney with Foley & Lardner LLP, where he is the co-chair of the Sports Industry Team. He advises and litigates for clients on a wide variety of traditional labor and general employment matters. He practices in diverse industries, including professional and collegiate sports, esports, entertainment, media, financial services, hedge and private equity funds, transportation and retail.

Previously, Jon was 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. He also served as a law clerk to the Honorable Alfred M. Wolin of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Areas of Concentration

  • Sports law
  • Equal employment litigation & counseling
  • Wage and hour litigation & counseling
  • Worker misclassification
  • Restrictive covenants & trade secrets
  • Traditional labor law
  • Employment contracts and separation agreements
  • Federal and state agency investigations (e.g., Department of Labor)
  • Labor and employment issues in corporate transactions
  • WARN Act
  • ERISA & employee benefits

Representative Experience *


  • Upshaw v. Detroit Pistons Basketball Co. (E.D. Mich.) (represented NBA team in tort action)
  • Major League Rugby (advise league on governance and operational matters)
  • 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) 
  • Krystal C. v. New York Jets, LLC (N.J. Super. Ct.) (successfully managed putative wage/hour class action brought by former team cheerleader)
  • 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.)
  • 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)
  • Thompson v. WNBA (S.D.N.Y.) (obtained dismissal of fraud action by former head coach and general manager of the Houston Comets)
  • Representing professional sports leagues and teams on issues relating to team medical staff operations
  • Negotiation of executive and coaching contracts in professional, collegiate and Olympic sports


  • Representing sports industry and other corporate clients in matters involving employment and severance agreements, non-compete provisions and other restrictive covenants, trade secrets, confidential and proprietary information, termination and discipline, plant closings and mass layoffs, and administration of personnel policies


  • Negotiating and administering collective bargaining agreements, including in professional sports and entertainment industries and in connection with corporate transactions and bankruptcy cases
  • Arbitrating grievances and disputes, including for the for professional sports leagues and teams in connection with player discipline, contract disputes, and salary arbitration, and for various corporate employers in connection with the enforcement of collective bargaining agreements and work rules
  • Litigating labor-management disputes before courts and the National Labor Relations Board
  • Responding to union organizing and corporate campaigns, including for a large entertainment company at live music venues


  • Advising clients and litigating before courts and administrative agencies on virtually all aspects of employment discrimination, including American Disabilities Act (ADA), Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and harassment


  • Advising clients and interfacing with government agencies, on wage and hour issues, including payment of overtime and worker classification
  • Litigating wage-hour disputes, including class and collective actions


  • Advising overseas clients on start-up and general business operations in the United States

* Certain of the above representations were handled by Jon prior to joining Foley.

Pro Bono Activities

  • Providing legal services and advice to charitable organizations that promote social change through sport, including Kick4Life, Street Child United, LACES, and STOKED
  • Board Member, Kick4Life


  • Recognized, Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business in the practice area of Sports Law: Esports (2021, 2022)
  • Recognized, The Best Lawyers in America©
    • Litigation – Labor and Employment (2020-2023)
    • Sports Law (2023)
  • Recognized, The Legal 500 United States


  • Columbia Law School (J.D.)
    • Recipient, Harlan Fiske Stone Scholarship
  • Harvard University (B.S., cum laude)

Admissions & Professional Memberships

  • New York
  • New Jersey
  • Member, Sports Lawyers Association

Selected Publications & Presentations

  • Author, “Colo. Equal Pay Law Is Raising Job Post Hurdles Nationwide,” Law360 (July 19, 2021)
  • Moderator, “Legal Issues in Professional Sports: A 30-year Retrospective,” National Sports Law Institute Conference, Milwaukee, WI
  • Speaker, “Esports: Assessing the Legal Landscape for a Growing Industry," Lawline Program, New York, NY
  • Speaker, “CBA Negotiations: The WNBA as a Case Study,” Cardozo Sports Law Society Symposium, New York, NY
  • Speaker, “Wide World of Sports Litigation," Lawline Program, New York, NY
  • Speaker, “A Pound of Prevention: Legal Compliance and the Medical Treatment of Athletes in Professional Sports," Lawline Program, New York, NY
  • Author, “Fight On? Student-Athletes Press for Employee Status Despite Seventh Circuit Rejection” Sports Litigation Alert, Volume 14, Issue 1
  • Moderator, “Amateurism, Economics, Employment and Pay within Collegiate Athletics,” National Sports Law Institute Conference, Milwaukee, WI
  • Speaker, “Maintaining Fairness, Integrity, and Safety in Sports,” National Sports Law Institute Conference, Milwaukee, WI
  • Speaker, “The Role of the Commissioner in the Adjudication Process, Brooklyn Entertainment, and Sports Law Society Seminar, Brooklyn, NY
  • Speaker, “College Football, Basketball, & the NLRB: How Will Collective Bargaining, Pay and Other Labor Issues Affect College Sports?,” NYC Labor & Employment Relations Association Symposium, New York, NY
  • Speaker, Foley & Lardner’s Tending to Your Business Seminar Series on Labor & Employment Law Developments, New York, NY
  • Speaker, “Are You Ready for a Wage-Hour Audit or Class Action?” New York Compensation Association Seminar, New York, NY
  • Speaker, "Managing the Workplace of the Future," Aon Consulting Industry Symposium, New York, NY
  • Speaker, "Employers and Workplace Retaliation: Overcoming Fears and Avoiding Claims," New Jersey Law Journal In-House Counsel Seminar, Florham Park, NJ
  • Author, "Has the Legal Tide Turned Against Retired Professional Athletes Seeking California Workers’ Compensation Benefits?," Sports Litigation Alert, Volume 10, Issue 5
  • Author, "Developments in Workers' Compensation Law Cloud Future for Retired Professional Athletes," Sports Litigation Alert, Volume 7, Issue 12
  • Author, "Independent Contractors: Challenging Times Ahead for Businesses in Light of Government Attention," New York Law Journal