He's not a professional athlete, but Alan Rifkin is a player of sorts in Baltimore sports history.
The sports franchise and business lawyer — and primary outside counsel to the Orioles since 1994 — was instrumental in the approval and funding of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the 24-year-old, red-brick stadium that was the forerunner of a generation of baseball-only venues in downtown areas.
Rifkin, the managing partner of Rifkin Weiner Livingston, is also principal outside counsel to the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network — the Orioles-controlled television network — and represents the Maryland Jockey Club, owner of the Preakness and Pimlico Racecourse, among other business clients.
His association with the Orioles predates the club's purchase by Peter Angelos in 1993. Rifkin was counsel to Gov. William Donald Schaefer in the late 1980s, "and the governor's top priority was to build a new baseball stadium in order to ensure the Orioles didn't go the way of the Colts and leave Baltimore," he said.
"There's a shared sense of pride and achievement in having been involved in the Camden Yards project from the very beginning," Rifkin said.
Under Angelos' direction, Rifkin was prime negotiator of a 2005 deal with Major League Baseball allowing the Washington Nationals to begin play in what was once Orioles territory.
To mollify Angelos — who had threatened litigation over another club entering the market — MLB gave the Orioles a large ownership stake in MASN, which is shared by the two teams, and a proportionately larger share of the profits. While Washington fans railed against Angelos, the owner was "standing up for" the rights of his franchise, Rifkin said.
Last year, Rifkin and his legal team won an important victory when a judge tossed out an MLB decision that would have compelled MASN — unfairly, the network argued — to pay tens of millions of dollars a year more to the Nationals in broadcast rights fees. It was a rare instance of an internal MLB arbitration decision being tossed out.
"The bottom line is that no club ever wants to litigate against the league but sometimes is compelled to do so," said Rifkin, adding that he was restricted from discussing case details since it is on appeal.
Rifkin's firm, which has offices in Baltimore, Annapolis, Bethesda and Upper Marlboro, merged with attorney Arnold M. Weiner's practice in 2013 and now has 30 lawyers.
The firm was a leading player in a recently announced settlement of a class-action lawsuit involving a defective circuit board in Whirlpool-manufactured dishwashers. The settlement could affect up to 20 percent of U.S. consumers, the firm said.
In his spare time, Rifkin occasionally pitches in 30-and-over baseball tournaments.
"I've been accused of playing hardball in business as a lawyer, so what else what would I play?" he said.