Lindsey LaForest (SM ‘19) transferred the skills she gained as a Sport Management undergraduate into her law school internship with the Detroit Pistons’ Business Affairs Office.
The Business Affairs Office doubles as the Pistons’ legal counsel, so in addition to working on typical business and legal contracts for the stadium and players, LaForest is assisting on special projects, including the formation of the Pistons’ new G-League team, the Motor City Cruise.
Usually at this time of year, a National Basketball Association team’s business and legal office would focus on more day-to-day operations. However, because COVID-19 delayed the start of the NBA’s offseason, LaForest is creating new contracts and working on some of the legalities of the existing contracts.
“COVID-19 has substantially changed things,” she said. “I’ve seen things you would never see in sports. Normally, you don’t have to rework every contract from a previous season to prepare for a new season. It’s usually a standard contract review. However, right now I’m exploring whether we can have fans in the stands when the season starts, and if we can, what are the state’s legal limits. These are issues we wouldn’t have to think about in normal times.”
One thing LaForest loves about interning with the Pistons is their desire to be a company that operates with high integrity and character, which is something she said is stressed throughout the Sport Management program.
“The importance of character and operating the right way is something that is valued,” she said. “Sports have a long history of being related to social justice in Detroit. Take this election for example. The Pistons made their facilities a voting area, provided food for people who were waiting to vote, and encouraged people to get out and be active citizens and participants within the larger scale of society. I value that very much and think it’s important to seek out companies that do that as well,” she continued.
Don’t be the person that passes by all these incredible opportunities. You don’t have these opportunities to learn from different people like you did in college, so make sure you take advantage of them and don’t disregard them.
LaForest grew up hearing from her father that she should be an attorney. “I thought there was no way that was going to happen,” she said. She grew up loving sports and originally wanted to go into physical therapy after undergoing physical therapy on her knee from injuring it playing softball. However, she dreaded the science classes.
LaForest’s decision became clear after attending a School of Kinesiology prospective student day and hearing Dr. Tom George, assistant professor of clinical practice in Applied Exercise Science and Sport Management, speak about the differences between the National Football League and the English Premier League. “He offered such a compelling perspective on Sport Management that I became hooked after that,” she said.
Her original path was business finance because of her love of math and numbers, but it wasn’t until she got into Sport Management Lecturer Marissa Pollick’s SM 503: Legal Aspects of Sports that she knew her dad was right – she was going into law with a focus on policy and social justice.
LaForest has always been active in social justice, even in high school. Once she arrived at U-M and was exposed to larger social justice issues, she went to work.
“I just think it’s the moral thing to do. I recognized the areas that I’ve been fortunate in and going to U-M exposed me to so many different people in such a different world. This experience made me realize the right thing to do was not to be silent on these issues,” she explained. “I always felt like it was my duty and obligation.”
LaForest first started working on Title IX research within the Department of Sociology while minoring in Law, Justice, and Social Change through the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.
The minor taught her how the law relates to race, gender, and social issues, and she tied her learning into research she did with Dr. Stacy-Lynn Sant, assistant professor of Sport Management, on athletes and their activism. Additionally, LaForest used her free time to conduct her own research on athletes and First Amendment issues surrounding activism, and what employment labor law says about it.
“That research was happening at the height of the country’s Colin Kaepernick debate, so I kind of got hooked and never looked back,” she said.
Social justice research wasn’t the only thing she was involved in during her time at U-M. LaForest was the co-founder of the Michigan Women Empowerment in Sport and Entertainment (MWESE), a student organization focused on providing women students with opportunities to create strong connections with their peers and industry professionals, stimulating personal growth, and expanding professional networks in the sports and entertainment industries.
She was also heavily involved in the Michigan Sport Business Conference (MSBC), serving two years as the conference’s vice president of team relations before becoming co-president her senior year. One of her proudest moments is seeing a dedicated women’s networking event at the conference this year.
LaForest, who is currently a 2L student at Wayne State University Law School, said all of this experience has reinforced to her that sports are a reflection of society.
“To me, that kind of reflection is what the everyday fans miss because they just see this as their fun time so they don’t have to think about what is going on with their family or their job. It’s their form of escape,” she said. “A lot of people have that right, whether you watch sports, movies, musicals, or read, but at the end of the day every single one of those reflects society. It’s not just entertainment. There’ so much more at stake when we talk about how sports operate within our society because it does impact the greater society, whether we’re talking about youth sports or professional sports.”
LaForest’s advice for incoming students is to step out of their comfort zone and take advantage of all the available resources the School of Kinesiology has to offer.
“Don’t be the person that passes by all these incredible opportunities,” she said. “You don’t have these opportunities to learn from different people like you did in college, so make sure you take advantage of them and don’t disregard them.”