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Steven F. Stapleton

fax +1 616.608.1169

Steven Stapleton litigates business and employment disputes and advises senior management in governance and crisis communications. He conducts sensitive investigations, including workplace harassment and sports-related sexual abuse/harassment litigation. Steve also conducts Title IX audits for K-12 school districts and higher education institutions.

Steve routinely assists clients on corporate governance and restructuring, rule/policy drafting, contract review, and employment related issues. He has established a niche representing sports related entities and governing bodies and is deeply familiar with the obligations those organizations face under various state and federal laws. He serves as outside General Counsel to the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association and is a member of the USA Hockey Legal Council. Steve serves as special counsel to the Arizona Amateur Hockey Association, Connecticut Hockey Conference, Texas Amateur Hockey Association, Utah Amateur Hockey Association, C2 Attack Volleyball Club, RipFest Diving and many other governing bodies, conferences, leagues, teams, administrators, and coaches.

Steve represents coaches and university athletic department personnel in NCAA related investigations and enforcement actions. He has represented university athletic departments/coaches, conferences and student-athletes in Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) related issues. He counsels educational and sport-related organizations and helps clients implement and monitor comprehensive player safety/background screening and SafeSport programs. He counsels clients in the context of amateur/collegiate competition and represents the sports client in actions seeking to impose discipline or other sanctions related to athletic competition. Steve has served on multiple occasions as the Arbitrator for USA Hockey in disputes with Hockey Canada under the USA Hockey/Hockey Canada Transfer Agreement

Steve is the Member-in-Charge of Clark Hill’s Grand Rapids office and is in the Litigation Practice Group. He serves as Co-Leader of the Sports Industry Team and is a member of the Title IX Core Team.

Steve is a Past Chair of the American Bar Association’s State and Local Government Section and routinely serves on national panels offering Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits. Steve is the Chair of the City of Rockford Board of Zoning Appeals and member of the City’s Zoning Ordinance Steering Committee.


J.D., cum laude, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, Detroit, Michigan, 1994
B.A., Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan, 1991, Political Science


Selected as a Grand Rapids Top Lawyer (2023)

Named among The Best Lawyers in America® – Commercial Litigation by Best Lawyers (2014-2024)

Michigan Super Lawyers Rising Star, General Litigation, Government/Cities/Municipalities, Civil Litigation Defense (2009)


American Bar Association, Council Member, State and Local Government Section, 2013-Present; Committee Coordinator, 2015-Present; Chair, Government Operations Committee (2012-2015)

American Bar Foundation, Fellow (2005-present)

Litigation Council of America, Fellow (2009-present)

Grand Rapids Bar Association

Michigan Amateur Hockey Association, General Counsel (2006-present)

Sports Lawyers Association

State Bar of Michigan

USA Hockey, Legal Counsel (2006-present); SafeSport Screening Appeal Committee (2012-present); Legal Council Affiliate Agreement Compliance and Audit Committee (2012-2014); Legal Council League Sanctioning Committee (2012-2014)

State Bar Licenses


Court Admissions

Supreme Court of Michigan
Michigan Court of Appeals
U.S. District Ct., E.D. of Michigan
U.S. District Ct., W.D. of Michigan
U.S. District Ct., S.D. of Indiana
U.S. Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit

Representative Matters

  • Successfully represented Naismith Hall of Fame Basketball Coach Rick Pitino in the NCAA investigation and subsequent hearing (2022) before a five (5) person independent panel concerning the University of Louisville’s and Coach Pitino’s compliance with NCAA rules. The independent hearing panel concluded that Coach Pitino did not commit any NCAA violations and promoted an atmosphere of compliance within his program.
  • Assisted in negotiating one of the first NCAA Negotiated Resolutions (NR) (2019) on behalf of a major conference basketball head coach related to allegations that the head coach did not promote an atmosphere of compliance related to the actions of alleged tampering by an assistant coach. The NR was approved by an NCAA hearing panel of the Committee on Infractions and resulted in a favorable resolution for the head coach.
  • Successfully represented a hall of fame/former Olympic coach and premier training facility in a high-profile sport in relation to a lawsuit involving allegations of sexual abuse against an assistant coach. The head coach was unaware of the allegations of sexual abuse by the assistant coach. A federal district court dismissed certain claims and the remaining claims were successfully resolved prior to trial.
  • Successfully represented a National Governing Body (NGB) for a high-profile sport in relation to allegations of sexual abuse by a former youth coach many years before. A federal district court granted a motion to dismiss and dismissed all state and federal claims against the defendants.
  • Represented numerous Division 1, 2 and 3 student-athletes (football, track & field, hockey, swimming & diving) in compliance related matters and reviewed Name, Image & Likeness (NIL) agreements with both NIL Collectives and other third parties.
  • Reviewed proposed agent agreements and initial major sponsorships in connection with professional status for multiple former NCAA Student-Athletes
  • Advised and educated Power 5 coaches in various sports of their compliance obligations relative to NIL opportunities for student-athletes.

Speaking Engagement

  • “CROWN Act Goes to Court” ABA Midyear Meeting Panelist, Louisville, KY (February 3, 2024)