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Chicago Bears hire Krista Whitaker as EVP of legal and business affairs, chief legal officer

The Chicago Bears on Tuesday hired Krista Whitaker to serve as the club's executive vice president of legal and business affairs as well as chief legal officer. Whitaker, who comes from the Miami Heat, will utilize her passion for football and extensive sports law experience to lead the Bears' legal department.

Story by Gabby Hajduk

Growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, Krista Whitaker was accustomed to Friday night lights, college football Saturdays and NFL Sundays. She would watch SEC games with her father, an LSU alum, and when it came time to decide where to go to college, she wanted to attend a school that had a passion for football. She ultimately chose Texas A&M.

While Whitaker has remained in the sports and media business throughout her legal career — she most recently served in the NBA as the Miami Heat's vice president and associate general counsel — she is eager to return to her football roots.

"It is really special when that many fans get together to watch a football game," Whitaker said. "There is so much energy and passion that goes into football, and it has its own special culture. I am excited to experience the power of football on a different level, especially with the Chicago Bears and the NFL."

In her new role with the Bears, Whitaker will head the legal department and collaborate closely with President & CEO Kevin Warren to provide comprehensive legal counsel and support to the club. Whitaker will manage the Bears day-to-day global legal department across all transactional, corporate, litigation, commercial, security and regulatory matters.

"I am most excited for the energy and the growth that the Chicago Bears organization is undergoing right now," Whitaker said. "Being able to contribute to the success of the new stadium, to expanding the organization's legal and business affairs and really being a part of Kevin's new team. I am really excited to innovate with the senior leadership team and bring the Bears to the forefront in Chicago and the NFL and the sports world, generally. To be a part of that at this time is really exciting."

Whitaker joined the Heat in 2021 and provided strategic legal advice and counsel on the organization's day-to-day operations while also drafting and negotiating key financial sponsorship and media rights matters. While with the Heat, Whitaker also served as an adjunct professor at the University of Miami School of Law teaching Sports Law and was a member of the law school's Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Program Advisory Board.

Prior to her role with the Miami Heat, Whitaker worked as a corporate attorney at Proskauer Rose where she represented various clients in the sports and media spaces. She handled a variety of transactional matters including acquisitions, joint ventures, league expansions, financings, media rights agreements and governance.

A graduate of Stanford Law School, Whitaker has been recognized by several sports and legal publications. She was named to the inaugural class of Sports Business Journal's New Voices Under 30, a Rising Star in Sports by Law 360, National Bar Association's "40 under 40" Nation's Best Advocates list and The Legal 500's GC Powerlist - Miami.

Whitaker is also excited to reunite with Warren after building a relationship with him when she was in law school at Stanford. Whitaker remembers meeting Warren at a legal conference while he was chief operating officer with the Minnesota Vikings.

"Kevin was on a panel, and I went to talk to him," Whitaker said. "I told him I wanted to learn more about his career path, and he encouraged me to reach out after the conference. I followed up with Kevin and we remained in touch. I would see him at different industry events and conferences and we kept in touch on the phone.

"When industry leaders such as Kevin tell law students, 'reach out,' I always took such leaders up on that offer of support, and here I am over a decade later getting to work with Kevin. That is what makes my joining of the Chicago Bears pretty remarkable in my book."

While Warren was the Big Ten Commissioner, he hired Proskauer Rose to provide strategic legal advice and guidance. Whitaker and her colleagues at Proskauer Rose helped Warren and the conference with the negotiation of the Big Ten's massive and creative $7 billion media rights agreements with FOX, CBS, NBC and the Big Ten Network. Whitaker and her colleagues also provided critical advice and counsel during the conference expansion of adding USC and UCLA.

"It has come full circle," Whitaker said. "Kevin has seen me grow throughout my career and now we have the opportunity to work directly together. I am really excited. The same reasons Kevin joined the Bears are the same reasons that I am joining his team and the Chicago Bears franchise. To be able to come in and work with such a storied, historic franchise and provide new life to it, and do that in a way that is smart and sets us up for success, that is what I am really excited to dig in on and work with the departments across the club."

In addition to Whitaker's hire, the Bears have also added Andrea "Andy" Zopp to the legal team to serve as a senior advisor of legal and business affairs. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Zopp most recently served as a managing partner at Cleveland Avenue, a global venture capital firm. She brings extensive experience in executive leadership roles both in the public and private sectors. With the Bears, Zopp will provide ongoing strategic guidance to the club and identify opportunities for legal optimization to ensure alignment with the organization's goals.

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"We are thrilled to welcome both Krista and Andy to the Chicago Bears family," Warren said. "Their combined expertise and dedication to excellence will be invaluable as we navigate complex legal issues, develop innovative programs and drive strategic initiatives, including the development of a new Chicago Bears stadium. With Krista's deep understanding of sports law and Andy's extensive leadership experience throughout Chicagoland, we are poised to elevate our legal operations to new heights. I am grateful to our chairman George H. McCaskey and the entire McCaskey family for providing me with a platform to hire Krista and Andy for these critically important roles that will positively impact the Chicago Bears franchise."

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