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June 6, 2008 4:38 PM

Proskauer Lateral Has Hand in New National Sports Museum

Posted by Brian Baxter

UPDATE: 3/17/09, 6:00 p.m. The operator of the Sports Museum of America, which closed its doors in February, has filed for bankruptcy.

Sports junkies around New York City this weekend looking to sandwich another sports-related activity around the NBA Finals might want to check out the Sports Museum of America, which opened last month in downtown Manhattan.

The museum, which the New York Daily News likens to the "Smithsonian, drenched in sweat," is the nation's first museum celebrating all sports under one roof.

The Sports Museum's primary outside lawyer is Robert Freeman, a Proskauer Rose sports lawyer and the former head of Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner's sports practice. He has represented a variety of sports clients over the years, including XOS Technologies and Sponsor Direct--he has handled licensing and sponsorship work for the companies--and two of the nation's largest cable operators, Time Warner Cable and Insight Communications.

Declining to rehash the well-publicized problems plaguing Thelen, Freeman--who joined Proskauer in late April--prefers to focus on his museum and what he can add to Proskauer's extensive professional sports practice.

Five years ago Freeman met Allen Schwalb, a former Hollywood producer and father of Philip Schwalb, the Sports Museum's founder. Freeman participated in some of the museum's early fund-raising efforts before becoming involved in all aspects of its development. Like most sports practices, Freeman says much of the work for the museum was interdisciplinary, involving lawyers from Thelen's corporate, real estate, and sports licensing departments. Freeman estimates he handled over 60 sponsorship agreements with various sports governing bodies throughout the United States to get them to donate items to the new museum.

"Halls of fame, other museums, the Heisman Trophy Trust, I handled all of it," says Freeman, noting that he'll bring some of that work with him to Proskauer.

"It's a fully interactive museum," Freeman says. "You can put a hockey mask on and see what it feels like to have a slap shot come at you." Other highlights include Casey Stengel's handwritten player evaluations of the 1962 New York Mets, the American flag that U.S. hockey goalie Jim Craig draped over his shoulders after beating the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics, and the sports bra worn by U.S. soccer player Brandi Chastain during her game-winning penalty kick against China in the 1999 Women's World Cup.

As for what he hopes to bring to his new firm, Freeman says he hopes to integrate his licensing and technology practice with other elements at Proskauer. And the Sports Museum work? "That's just a bonus," he says, laughing.

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