Ex-NHL counsel named NWSL commissioner

Updated: Mar 21

Former Proskauer Rose LLP lawyer Jessica Berman will begin new role next month



Former National Hockey League deputy general counsel and Proskauer Rose LLP lawyer Jessica Berman has been appointed commissioner of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).


Berman, who joins the NWSL from the National Lacrosse League – where she was deputy commissioner and executive vice president of business affairs – was an associate at Proskauer Rose LLP specialising in labor and employment.


After leaving Proskauer Rose LLP in 2006, she joined the National Hockey League, where she was senior counsel and later deputy general counsel.


The search committee of the NWSL board of governors included Angela Hucles (ACFC), Mike Golub (POR) Chris Long (KCC), Sophie Sauvage (RGN) and Mark Wilf (ORL). The players’ commissioner search committee was comprised of Crystal Dunn, Kaylie Collins, Jane Campbell, Bri Visalli, Nicole Barnhart, Emily Menges, Tori Huster, and executive director Meghann Burke. The board was assisted by James and Company, one of the world’s premier executive search firms.


“We’re thrilled to have Jessica serve as the next commissioner of the NWSL as we embark on our tenth season of play,” said Sauvage. “This process was incredibly collaborative throughout and we want to thank the players for their involvement. Jessica’s extensive professional background, her commitment to elevating diverse voices in the sports industry, and her vision for the future of our league, made her the right fit for this incredibly important position.”


Berman commented: “I’m honored to be the next commissioner of the NWSL and grateful to the owners for their confidence in me. Working on behalf of, and in partnership with, our players is my number one priority. Having been involved in professional sports for many years, I know how critically important a genuine partnership with players is for us all to be successful and continue to grow. The successful conclusion of the league’s first-ever CBA with our players is the perfect foundation from which to build that partnership, and I am grateful for Marla Messing’s leadership in getting that done.”


Berman is set to begin her four-year term as commissioner on 20 April, 2022. To ensure a smooth transition, Messing will continue her role as interim CEO until May 31, 2022.


Messing joined the league in October 2021. A NWSL statement said: “During her five-month tenure, she is credited with negotiating and launching a joint investigation with the NWSLPA, resolving the Washington Spirit ownership situation, and overseeing the sale of the club for a record $35 million, completing the league’s first-ever collective bargaining agreement, and restoring confidence in the long-term prospects of the league among its myriad constituencies.”