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Bob Wallace Featured for Role as NFL Trailblazer

February 2, 2024

Thompson Coburn partner Bob Wallace was featured in an Arizona Cardinals article on his role in the NFL, how it became an avenue for progress, and the Cardinals’ ongoing effort to increase opportunities for people of color.

Shortly after finishing law school, Bob became the first African-American to negotiate NFL player contracts in 1981 after being hired by owner Bill Bidwill. "I think it opened up some doors for other African Americans entering the business,” Bob said. “I think it opened up doors for a younger generation to come.”

One thing Bob is most proud of during his time with the Cardinals was how he bridged the divide between the players and the club. "Cardinals player contract negotiations were antagonistic when I started," he said. "What (Bill Bidwill's) idea was to hire an outside lawyer, although it kind of became a fiction because once the outside lawyer had done this for two years, you were really considered part of the team."

Despite improvements since he started at the NFL, Bob said he believes there are still some disparities for "African-American executives and coaches to climb the ladder and that steep climb is not the same for the white coaches." He added that the league is also severely lacking African-American offensive coordinators. “I think the league still has a way to go, but they have improved. This hiring cycle has been better from the head coach ranks. There are several general managers that are people of color that are doing a great job."

As chairman of Thompson Coburn’s Sports Law Group, Bob represents teams, prospective buyers of sports teams, companies interested in sports marketing and civic and government entities facing team relocation or facility issues. He also assists players, coaches and executives with contract negotiations and separation agreements and serves as an NFL-approved hearing officer for violations of the league's drug and conduct policies.

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