"It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do." —Edmund Burke, Irish statesman (1729-1797)
Tasked with revamping an undergraduate sports law course to include ethics, Sport Management lecturer and practicing attorney Marissa Pollick found it difficult to find a textbook that would cover both disciplines and work with the new curriculum.
So Pollick wrote a textbook, her first—Introduction to Legal and Ethical Issues in Sport—that was published on August 9, 2021. Each chapter approaches a topic from two perspectives: what is legal, and what is ethical. "I wanted to distinguish legal and ethical issues in each relevant content area, and include case notes and hypothetical case scenarios where applicable,” she said. “This is different from the texts that I have used for my undergraduate students, which are more like a narrative introduction to sports law."
“Many sports law textbooks are very good,” she added. “However, they do not specifically examine ethical issues in sport. My collection of ethics resources was valuable; however, I wanted to synthesize the fundamentals of law and legal cases with ethical concepts and related case studies.”
Pollick has been teaching at U-M Kinesiology since 2004, beginning with a graduate course in sports law, Legal Aspects of Sport. In 2011, she began teaching an introductory version for undergraduates, SM/AES 333, now titled Legal and Ethical Issues in Sport. Later she would help develop and teach SM 436, Race and Cultural Issues in Sport, and SM 433, Sport and Public Policy.
Pollick comes from a family of lawyers, including her grandfather, father, and two brothers. She credits her parents—both U-M graduates—as her role models: Sidney Pollick, a successful trial lawyer in Detroit, for his legal acumen; and Esther Pollick, for her social awareness and activism. Pollick is herself a U-M grad who majored in history before going on to U-M Law School. “History is an excellent major for aspiring lawyers,” she said. “It requires extensive reading and writing, as well as research and analytical skills that are critical to success in law school.”
Beginning her career in large firms in Chicago and Detroit, Pollick focused on corporate law and commercial litigation. After joining her father’s law firm in Detroit, she had the opportunity to represent coaches and women’s tennis professionals as attorney and agent. “Over time, I was able to pursue my true passion, which was constitutional and civil rights cases, including Title IX litigation,” she said.
Not every lawyer would want to teach, but Pollick enjoys it. “I always loved school and had an interest in teaching,” she said. “While teaching does not apply to all fields of law, it can be an integral part of an attorney’s professional work. This is true in my field of employment and civil rights litigation where research, persuasive writing, and oral arguments help educate the court and public on important legal questions and issues. I find teaching especially rewarding and enjoy interacting with students and observing their progress.” She added, “Teaching is also a welcome change from litigation, which is adversarial in nature and typically involves conflict and, at times, incivility."
Pollick is often approached by media outlets to comment on the role of Title IX in the Larry Nassar sexual abuse case at Michigan State University and the changes made to it under former US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. A student athlete herself in the late 1970s, Pollick witnessed U-M’s reluctance to enact the civil rights law. “U-M has an unfortunate history with regard to Title IX,” she said. “Our athletic administration then vehemently opposed passage of the law and its application to athletics. It was also slow to recognize the application of Title IX to sexual harassment and sexual assault as evidenced by major scandals that include male and female victims.” However, she stayed actively connected to Michigan Athletics and became the first woman president of the Letterwinners “M” Club in 1999.
Does Pollick feel that Title IX gets the attention it deserves from most sports law textbooks? “Generally, no,” she said. “I think many texts fail to fully address the history and breadth of the law, its implementing regulations, and the underlying basis for institutional liability. This is true with respect to Title IX athletic compliance regulations that deal with participation opportunities, scholarships, and treatment of athletes, as well as the body of law, regulations, and policy guidance related to sexual harassment and sexual assault in an educational setting.”
While Introduction to Legal and Ethical Issues in Sport is college-level reading, Pollick thinks the book would appeal to others because the underlying subject matter involves real-life cases in amateur, intercollegiate, and professional sports. For those interested in learning more about Title IX, she recommends Title IX: A Brief History with Documents by historian Susan Ware.