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Welcome back to the Spotlight! With Summer in full swing, it’s hard to resist the lure of campfire s’mores (and central air conditioning). So it’s only appropriate that I discuss the marshmallow, the indispensable core and glue to the s’more, great on its own but elevating the components around it, here in the context of the Marshmallow Test. To those who are unfamiliar with the Marshmallow Test, the concept is that you offer someone (in my case, one of my sugar-craving children) the opportunity to receive one marshmallow now, or wait five minutes to receive two marshmallows. The idea behind the exercise is to demonstrate the value of delayed gratification (something many among us could stand to benefit from these days…). 

Last Friday, NBA all-star point guard Jalen Brunson, every bit the indispensable core and glue to the New York Knicks, great on his own but elevating the components around him, passed the Marshmallow Test of all Marshmallow Tests with flying colors. Although Brunson had an opportunity to extend his player contract with the Knicks for approximately $269 million in 2025, he chose to leave nearly $113 million on the table in the name of giving the organization flexibility to keep its team together while luring additional pieces in pursuit of an NBA championship. The move not only further ingratiates Brunson with Knicks fans, teammates and the city of New York (you might as well give him a key to the city) but it sets his team up for success and long term marketing potential. That, and he’ll be eligible for a $323 million deal in 2028 or $418 million in 2029. A marshmallow sweet reward for his delayed gratification. His parents must be proud. Fingers crossed that this post ages well.

    • Unscripted reality television production is facing headwinds in Los Angeles, with the primary motivating factor likely being that people have dwindling interest in reality.
    • Disney CEO Bob Iger and wife Willow Bay join an already star-studded ownership group in NWSL club Angel City FC, paying upwards of $87.5 million for a controlling interest in the team at a $250 million valuation– making the team the most valuable women’s professional sports team in the world.  To put things in perspective, that is roughly the price of a one week long Walt Disney World vacation for a family of four.
    • Having already introduced American soccer to his incomparable brand of play, Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi is introducing a new brand of sports hydration beverages called “más+ by Messi.” Will it stand out among the crowded field of sports drinks by imparting the consumer with Messi’s skills? Unlikely, but given the U.S. Men’s National Team’s unceremonious exit from the U.S.-hosted Copa America 2024 tournament, they can use all the help they can get.

Welcome back to the Spotlight! If jumping back into this space isn’t hard enough after a week off, the oppressive heat and humidity paired with mounting levels of existential dread due to [insert national or global event here] (Sad Libs is my version of “Mad Libs”) provide an obstacle the likes of which an Olympic pole vaulter would shudder at. Oh well, at least I have my New York Yankees to lift my spirits, right?…RIGHT?!?! (Editor’s note: the Yankees have lost 16 of their last 25 games). (Sigh…) For those who share in my malaise, I hope you’ll find some relief and humor by way of the clown tears below:

  • WWE Pro-Wrestler and actor (not mutually-exclusive) John Cena announced that he’s hanging up his tights after Wrestlemania 2025. Though that would ordinarily mean it could be the last time to see him wrestle in a ring, if Cena’s catchphrase is to be believed, we’re still waiting on the first time to see him.
  • Tiger Woods and Justin Timberlake are teaming up to open a sports bar in Scotland. It will be Uber-interesting to see whether the bar gets a Lyft from being so closely aligned with the golf legend and pop icon.
  • WNBA Rookie of the Year Candidate Angel Reese seems poised to add Hershey to her growing list of endorsements, as her fanbase (who she calls “Reese’s Pieces”) now includes Reese’s (the candy brand).  So, don’t be surprised if you see Reese eating the Reese’s Pieces in the not too distant future – but you should absolutely be surprised if you see Reese eating her Reese’s Pieces.

A person holding a phoneWelcome back to the Spotlight! Even though the NBA season ended over a week ago, I’d be remiss if I didn’t recognize the building excitement for the New York Knicks’ prospects—on and off the court—for next season. If someone were to tell you that you could go to work with three of your best friends from college (and make tens of millions of dollars in the process), you’d sign up for that every day of the week and twice on Tuesday. That’s exactly the situation Knicks’ all-star point guard Jalen Brunson finds himself in as he is now set up to play next season with his fellow Villanova University teammates (and NCAA Champions) Mikal Bridges joins Brunson, Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo. Hopefully they can leverage their chemistry to relive their championship glory, but for now, through media appearances including Brunson and Hart’s podcast “The Roommates Show” and countless other opportunities that await them, they can leverage their chemistry for entertainment and marketing value as well. Speaking of chemistry, honorable mention to the Los Angeles Lakers who now also have biology going for them as Bronny James was drafted to play on the same team as his father LeBron. All interesting dynamics to behold and something sure to provide fireworks for audiences and sponsors in the days ahead. That reminds me, for the immediate days ahead, brief note that in preparation for America’s 248th birthday (roughly the age of our next President, it seems) the Spotlight will take a breather and return the week of July 8. 

    • This Christmas, the Kansas City Chiefs will have a doubleheader, playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in the afternoon, and then taking center stage in a schmaltzy Hallmark Channel movie, “Holiday Touchdown: A Chiefs Love Story.” I can’t imagine where they might have gotten the inspiration for that film from…
    • The torch for the Summer Olympics is being lit next month in Paris, France. NBC has lined up an impressive list of celebrities for its broadcasts of the Games—lest they be torched in the ratings.

    • Major record labels—themselves wading into the artificial intelligence space of late—filed a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement by a pair of A.I.-based tech companies that allegedly train their software on the labels’ music. Incidentally the labels are represented by venerable trial lawyer Chad G. Petey. 

    • Cash hungry media company Buzzfeed has put up its popular celebrity and chicken wing-centric show “Hot Ones” up for sale at the price of a cool $70 million. To sweeten the deal, they’re reportedly willing to throw in free carrots and celery. 

Welcome back to the Spotlight! As we cross the Summer solstice and melt under the Sun’s searing rays of light, we at the Spotlight would like to remind you that too much light can be a bad thing (don’t forget your sunscreen!). Indeed much is to be said about the virtues of moderation. For instance, flashing and beaming stage lights shining upon you during your world tour are great – but adding flashing lights on top of a police cruiser and beams of light from a window-mounted searchlight. Pop icon Justin Timberlake is undoubtedly “in sync” with those sentiments, having just been arrested in the Hamptons this week for driving while intoxicated. Takeaways from this incident? Even the biggest, most seemingly polished stars falter – at the end of the day, they are human (and thankfully no one was injured).  For just about the entire entertainment ecosystem – brands, sponsors, talent and promoters--the immediate ripple effect is that there will be that much more attention paid to so-called “morals clauses” allowing for early termination in deals involving celebrity talent. For opposing counsel who might be reading this, I look forward to the dance. That all being said, the one light that you can never have too much of is the Spotlight (…right?) so I will just have to give the people what they want (I think…).

    • Women’s shapewear brand SPANX teams up with newcomer (not to be confused with Newcomber) League One Volleyball (or LOVB) in an apparel sponsorship deal that marks SPANX’s first sports marketing  endeavor. The brand is sure to be tested as its shapewear may be no match for volleyball’s bumps.

    • New Jersey became the first state to legalize wagering on “Car-Jitsu,” a sport in which people fight each other in a sedan.  Little did I know, growing up the youngest of three brothers, on long car trips, I was training to be a prize fighter and/or punching bag.

    • Battle rap competition series Verzuz, gets exclusive distribution through X (formerly known as “Twitter”) – which is great news for those hoping that the social media platform’s insults be by way of poetry rather than prose.  

Welcome back to the Spotlight! In recognition of Father’s Day this upcoming weekend, I would be remiss not to impart some learned wisdom while also dialing the dad jokes up to 11. If you decide to read on, then you probably have the same last name as me. For those playing ketchup (though surely by now many of you musta-heard), the hottest news off the grill this week is that the 16 time winner of the annual Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating competition (and presumptive 4 time recipient of a new heart valve) Joey Chestnut received some news that was just the wurst. Indeed Chestnut was rolled off this year’s competition. Namely, since Nathan’s relishes its annual brand spotlight (no relation), it has a real beef with Chestnut endorsing Impossible Foods, a purveyor of fake beef—including plant-based hot dogs. To put things in perspective, Chestnut’s deal with Impossible Foods is akin to Michael Jordan moving his buns from Nike to Adidas. To be frank, Chestnut’s representatives would have done well to consider not only whether his deal violated exclusivity or non-competition obligations owed to Nathan’s, but also whether they could cause heartburn. If this is some carefully orchestrated publicity stunt that ends with Nathan’s offering Impossible hot dogs in its restaurants, then that would sure be grate to make everyone may feel less sauer. As it stands, Chestnut is setup for a Labor Day one on one hot dog eating competition opposite his rival Takeru Kobayashi, which is to be streamed on Netflix. For now, let’s walk one footlong in front of the other into the next segment…

    • ​The Cricket World Cup is in full swing here in New York, with much fanfare surrounding an American team outperforming the expectations of many (including by beating heavy favorite Pakistan). While I’m still brushing up on the rules and terminology of the sport of British origin, I would expect swarms of capital to be infused into the sport here in the states. An infinitely better proposition than swarms of joro spiders (see last week’s Spotlight). 
    • Meanwhile, the cross-cultural exchange was in full effect with the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies taking Major League Baseball across the pond to London for what was by all accounts a successful endeavor. Smart move by the MLB not scheduling the Kansas City Royals—that could have been confusing. 
    • Speaking of Kansas City, the Chiefs organization must be relieved that a player made news this offseason for other than for committing a crime or making misogynistic comments, as Travis Kelce and his recently retired brother Jason acquire a significant stake in craft brewing company, Garage Beer. For my part, I’m relieved I did not have to mention T.S. (Taylor Swift for search engine optimization purposes). 

Welcome back to the Spotlight! You may recall from a few weeks ago that I bemoaned the playoff exit of the New York Knicks. This week, I am doing the same after the Knicks’ roommates, the New York Rangers met a similar fate. You might think that the silver lining is that less time in front of the TV watching 2 of my favorite teams will get me to spend more time outside to enjoy the weather. And ordinarily you’d be right. However, my time in the Sun will be short-lived (and my medicine cabinet full of vitamin D supplements), as I just recently read that an invasive species of hand-sized “flying” spiders known as “Joro Spiders” will be descending on New York this Summer. You truly can’t make this stuff up anymore.  Not a great stretch for the Empire State. The good news for those (like me) whose skin crawls at the very thought of these critters, a nice and sheltered air-conditioned room provides the perfect ambience for reading the Spotlight without threat of interruption of parachuting arachnids. If you do happen to see me out, it will be at Yankee Stadium with one of those umbrella hats, wearing a firm pair of steel-toe boots. For now, you can find me on the Web (lest I be found in a web).

    • Dallas Mavericks point guard Kyrie Irving will be, as he has all season, wearing Anta brand sneakers on the court during the NBA Finals. The Chinese athletic apparel brand will seemingly be well-represented in the stands as well, with Irving offering an endorsement deal for his father. My boys have to step up their game for Father’s Day.  

    • Country Music star Morgan Wallen’s branded restaurant “Morgan Wallen’s This Bar and Tennessee Kitchen” in Nashville just ahead of the CMA Fest. With a fully stocked bar, three stages for live performances and down-home menu options, the restaurant seems likely to be a hit – just as long as the wait staff doesn’t take cues from his last album and serve “One Thing at a Time.”

    • Former members of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band Earth, Wind & Fire will need to pony up $750,000 for infringing the band’s trademark rights. The judge ordered payment by no later than the 21st night of September.

Hard to believe that June is just around the corner. Interestingly, June is one of two months with four letters in it (the other being July).

Speaking of four letter words (don’t worry—I’m not about to channel my inner George Carlin. I have a reputation to uphold here!), one four letter word that has not been recently uttered in this space is “NFTs.” That could be because after pandemic-fueled NFT bubble (I guess people were attracted to the fact they did not need hand sanitizer to handle them…) popped, leading valuations into a freefall and spurring a number of high-profile civil and criminal cases to crop up, not the least of which being a pending $1 billion class action lawsuit against Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo arising out of his promotion of NFTs on the cryptocurrency platform Binance. You might think that such a hefty lawsuit might influence Ronaldo to lay low for a little bit. Pelo contrário meus amigos.

Instead, Ronaldo has chosen to double-down and release a new collection of NFTs on Binance. But hey, when you’ve been labeled one of the sexiest men in the world, one of the greatest soccer players of all time and are paid $200 million a year to play soccer in a foreign land, you might have some built-up hubris. Sure, it’s not quite the same confidence booster as being told (mostly by family) that your “Spotlight” was well done in a given week, but I imagine it is up there…Whatever comes of Ronaldo’s decision, I would hope for the sake of him (and his lawyers) that they got a robust indemnification provision in Ronaldo’s deal with Binance.  Otherwise, his defense attorney will be drinking Champagne while his transactional attorney drinks something stronger.  

In any event, if you’ve made it this far, why not double down and see what else is in store this week.  

    • UEFA Champions League Final-bound, German soccer club Dortmund strikes a sponsorship deal with a German arms manufacturer, but don’t expect the deal to be a difference-maker for the club. After all, the sport relies more heavily on legs. 

    • Range Sports and The New York Mets partner up on a development deal to produce short form off-field content around the players. An exciting development for a team that struggles to produce quality on-field content. 

    • Sony Music seems poised to bid a king’s ransom of over $1 billion on the song catalog of legendary rock band Queen. Alexa, please play “We Are The Champions.

Fresh off a much needed vacation, I spent part of this week at the 4se conference here in New York City (presented by Leaders Group and Sports Business Journal). My experience as the event was as good, if not better than last year’s. For one thing, it was gratifying to focus on the business side of sports and entertainment with my still licking my fandom wounds from the Knicks’ playoff exit.

For another thing, I geek out on the convergence of sports, entertainment, fashion and music and becoming even more conversant about the ecosystem in which our clients thrive—and I got to know a number of people who feel the same. Unsurprisingly, against the backdrop of artificial intelligence’s emergence, the import of authenticity, loyalty and understanding consumers’ and fans’ emotions and desires was prominently highlighted.

What *was* most surprising what was not that the WWE has a writers room of 50 people (jarring enough to learn that pro wrestling is scripted!) but rather that there was not one Taylor Swift and/or Travis Kelce reference in any of the panel discussions (I guess they’ve had their 15 minutes…). In any event, I look forward to leveraging all that I learned about to make me a more well-rounded, business-minded lawyer and you, better-informed readers.

To that end, let’s get to it, shall we? 

    • A landmark settlement was reached in the House v. NCAA case that will enable the member schools of the so-called “Power 5” NCAA sports conferences to pay their athletes directly—further blurring the line between college and professional sports. As I understand it, the primary difference is that spectators will still be able to afford a hot dog…I think.

    • The U.S. Department of Justice filed a milestone antitrust suit against live events and ticketing juggernaut Live Nation—which seems like a slight overreaction to missing out on tickets to the Eras Tour.

    • Scarlett Johansson pens a strongly-worded letter to push back at a strongly lettered-word (A.I.)’s use of a voice eerily similar to hers for OpenAI’s ChatGPT assistant. Particularly after OpenAI had previously courted Johansson for her to lend her voice to the program (and was rebuffed), it doesn’t take much intelligence – artificial or otherwise – to understand her gripe.    

    • Indiana Fever guard Caitlin Clark enters into a multiyear endorsement deal with Wilson Sporting Goods Co., becoming the first athlete since Michael Jordan to have her own line of signature basketballs. While Wilson’s products are likely to bounce, the deal is undoubtedly lucrative enough to ensure that Clark’s checks do not.

If you were wondering where last week’s edition was—allow me to put the rumors to rest. I was not at the tailor getting fitted for the Met Gala. I was not practicing my set for the Roast of Tom Brady—I thought about it, but apparently you had to be famous or gifted at sports (the ship on the latter has sailed, but the former…). Instead, I was at my firm’s attorney retreat meeting, getting better acquainted with and forming a rapport with teammates located across the country. So, in the spirit of the word “retreat,” I guess I pulled back. Next week, I’ll be out of the country taking another retreat of sorts, recharging my batteries and taking the week off.  But this week, in the spirit of the word “treat” I’ll provide you with just enough decadent mind morsels to tide you over. Read it again until I’m back and you’ll be re-treated. 

    • The honor of holding the first ever (official) alcohol sponsorship of a college football bowl game will be held by some guys who know a thing or two about money and bowls as the Arizona Bowl will be branded “The Snoop Dogg Arizona Bowl presented by Gin & Juice by Dre and Snoop.” 

    • NBA Hall of Fame and former Seattle SuperSonics point guard Gary Payton appears super interested in owning a piece of a potential Seattle expansion team (years after the Seattle franchise relocated to and rebranded as the Oklahoma City Thunder. The investment would be fitting for Payton—you might say like a glove. 

    • Just ten days after retiring from the WNBA, highly decorated Candace Parker shuns the shuffleboard courts in favor of a boardroom, landing at Adidas as the President of Women’s Basketball. 

With so many recent headlines of high profile individuals finding themselves in high risk, low reward situations, this week I’d like to take a step back in hopes of recalibrating everyone’s cost-benefit meters. At the risk of sounding too fatherly (appropriately so--I do have two scamps of my own and have been known to crack a dad joke from time to time) what were these guys thinking?

Just a few months removed from an impressive rookie season capped by a Super Bowl victory, Kansas City Chiefs Wide Receiver Rashee Rice caught a case, putting himself in legal jeopardy for his role in a hit and run on a Dallas highway after the Lamborghini he was racing caused a massive pile-up.  Having nothing to gain and everything to lose (his football career, endorsements and even his life) was not enough to overcome the untouchable mindset.

Then there’s the case of Toronto Raptors two-way player Jontay Porter, who this past week found himself receiving a lifetime ban from the NBA after he was found to be involved in gambling on NBA games. Most egregiously, Porter checked himself out of a game due to “illness” so as to allow gamblers to cash-in on so-called “prop bets” that he would underperform his projected stats. Porter was also found to have placed numerous bets on his online Sportsbook account, including wagering against the Raptors—generating a $20K profit. For an average Joe, $20K seems like a nice take, but when you’re a professional athlete on the precipice of a multimillion dollar contract—that risk sounds like a head-scratcher. Porter now finds himself disgraced and on the unemployment line (though if he learns Japanese, I hear the Los Angeles Dodgers have an opening for an interpreter…).

Lucky enough, you’ve bucked the trend and made a low-risk, high reward choice in reading the Spotlight. 

    • Taylor Swift’s new album “The Tortured Poets Department” comes out today. If you’re looking for the Dead Poets Society, it’s the down the hall, first door on your left.

    • Major League Rugby continues to show signs of growth in popularity with increasing sponsorship coming in for teams such as the Western Conference League Table leader Seattle Seawolves (who happen to be sponsored by a law firm by the name of “Foster Garvey”) and Washington D.C.’s Old Glory. Both seem appropriate because the US is hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2031, but the latter is that much more so since our Nation’s Capital is increasingly filled with scrums amongst oddballs.

    • The rags to riches story for Wrexham A.F.C. rolls on, with securing a second consecutive promotion, positioning the squad just one rung below the English Premier League. Raising ample capital to make the jump poses a challenge that may require owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney to sell minority holdings of the club, but for now, sponsorship deals such as the recent one from Gatorade should be enough to quench their thirst.  

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