Weekly Column: Survey of AI in Sports

In his capacity as a Columnist for California Sports Lawyer®, Founder and Managing Attorney Jeremy Evans has written a column about the use of artificial intelligence in sports.    

You can read the full column below.


The use of artificial intelligence (“AI”) in our daily lives continues to grow. In some circumstances, the implementation and change is seamless. In other adaptations, it will take longer to adopt and understand, if at all.

In the world of entertainment, media, and sports, AI has been limited and expanded depending on the industry. The Hollywood talent unions have addressed concerns with AI use through collective bargain agreements that prioritize human talent over machine learning or at least place limitations on AI use. In media, although some AI is being used in story writing, art creation, and more, it is limited by human control and the need or requirement for humans to tell or read the stories in news. Copyright protection is also limited to human creation not to mention the licensing and copyright infringement issues with AI.

However, one of the largest growth areas in AI is in sports. Not as generative AI in robots playing sports (yet), but in the use of AI to grow and understand the sports industry. AI is being used to create predictive models for drafts, performance, health, safety, and possibly in sports betting to forecast outcomes. The benefit of AI is in the collective knowledge of data, people, and information with immediate models to analyze and implement in strategy. The data collection is massive. It is akin to Elon Musk’s opining that Tesla is a data company as much as it is a sustainable energy company that happens to create cars, energy systems, and more, which are used in space travel and technological development as well.

There is however a growing concern in developmental AI. There are two major schools of thought. One is that advocated by Larry Page of Google. The other is that of Elon Musk of Tesla, SpaceX, X, and Neuralink. Page’s ideal future is one driven by AI as dominant in purpose towards innovation without regulation. A survival of the fittest future where humans could be replaced or at the least combined with machines and machine learning. Musk’s vision is one where there is an AI bill of rights with humans at the forefront and receiving the highest order of control and protection. When it comes to sports, the implementation of AI has been in the latter camp where AI has been used to assist and benefit athletes and front offices alike.

For example, the National Football League has partnered with Amazon Web Services on the collection of player data during training, practices, and games to help with injury insights and prevention with a goal of player safety. In the National Basketball Association, Los Angeles Clippers Owner Steve Ballmer is nearing completion of the most technologically advanced sports venue in the world, the Intuit Dome, and sought to hire a director of AI and emerging technologies to implement the futuristic mission. “AiFi” (e.g., autonomous shopping and checkout), for example, will be used throughout the venue to keep patrons in their seats engaged in the action on the court and screens.

In a cross-over into human innovation and machine learning, AI in sports is growing on the officiating front. This could mean fewer jobs for umpires and referees, or it could be assistance with making calls. AI is also being used to aide in visual consumption. For example, Statcast in baseball or ball or puck tracking adds an element to sports that might not be recognizable to the human eye, but offers an additional layer of analysis. AI is also being used in marketing to assist in sales and analytics seeking to determine what the fans want.

The industry will continue to utilize AI in practice, but its limitations will eventually arise through court cases protecting human rights, jobs (likely with protection by unions), and lawmaking. Best practices would provide that a measured approach with AI as a tool, not a crutch, is the best policy. AI is a tool that is increasingly easier to use and implement so monitoring our reliance and human protections is important.


About Jeremy M. Evans:

Jeremy M. Evans is the Chief Entrepreneur Officer, Founder & Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing entertainment, media, and sports clients in contractual, intellectual property, and dealmaking matters. Evans is an award-winning attorney and industry leader based in Los Angeles and Newport Beach, California. He can be reached at Jeremy@CSLlegal.com. www.CSLlegal.com.  

Copyright © 2024.  California Sports Lawyer®.  All Rights Reserved. 

Author image
Los Angeles and Newport Beach, California Website
Jeremy M. Evans is the CEO, Founder & Managing Attorney of California Sports Lawyer® representing entertainment, media, and sports clients and is licensed to practice law in California.