Welcome back to the Spotlight! For all the controversy surrounding the selection of Qatar as the host country for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, with the island nation’s scorching climate and chilly human rights record, I have been enjoying watching each of the 32 national teams playing “the beautiful game” of soccer/football/futbol (depending on who you ask). Maybe I am over-romanticizing sports, or maybe I still have “It’s a Small World After All” stuck in my head, but it is something to behold witnessing two teams representing their respective nations, such as those of the United States and Iran, set aside cultural and geopolitical differences and become united by the common game. To be sure, each team wanted to win, advance to the next round of the tournament and bring glory to its respective side (tip of the hat to U.S. Midfielder Christian Pulisic, aptly nicknamed, “Captain America”), but when the final whistle sounded—regardless of color, creed or nationality--the players were reduced to their lowest common denominator and in a show of class (and humanity) U.S. players consoled their defeated Iranian counterparts on the world stage. This act of compassion was in stark contrast to the threats of the Iranian team’s government, who threatened its players and their families with violence and torture if the team did not “behave” (i.e., remain silent in the face of its authoritarian regime). So, regardless of how far the Americans advance in the tournament, it has been nice to see the pureness of sport in the spotlight.
- Kim Kardashian finds herself in a public relations kerfuffle after luxury brand Balenciaga is panned for a controversial advertising campaign featuring children with provocatively dressed teddy bears. Ironically, Balenciaga once dressed Kardashian in a dress that completely covered her face. That (and a well-drafted corporate morals provision) could come in handy right now to extricate her from the blowback.
- For the third straight year, recording artist Bad Bunny claimed the title of the most streamed artist on Spotify, clocking in at about 18 billion streams worldwide. Fair to wonder how many more he might have if he was just named “Bunny.”
- Drake is teaming up with Nike to design a new sneaker dedicated to his mom, inspired by their favorite childhood book. Thanks a bunch, Drizzy. Now I am going to have to do better than flowers and a card for Mother’s Day this year.
Welcome back to the Spotlight! I am fresh off my trip (not to be confused with a “vacation”) to Walt Disney World, and discounting--just about the only time the word “discount” has been used in recent memory—being pummeled by Hurricane Nicole, several children’s ear infections and coming down with the Flu, there were still good memories and a lot of fun to be had by all. Mickey-shaped pretzels and Dole Whips helped ease the malaise as well. But I’m back to do away with your malaise (or sense of relief, depending on your point of view) and fill the sports and entertainment law void left in my absence. As previewed two weeks ago, I have new section on emerging sports, replacing the NFTs section—at least for a while until the crypto market rebounds #goodvibesonly. But just make sure to fill your plate with enough food (for thought) as I’ll be gathering with my core readership (my family) for Thanksgiving. Between now and then, there will undoubtedly be a veritable cornucopia of stories that I’ll be putting on my LinkedIn page. Consider it a flashlight rather than a Spotlight.
- NFL Wide Receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. files a $20M lawsuit against Nike, alleging he was cheated out of an opportunity to sign an endorsement deal with Adidas. When Beckham consulted his attorney about filing the lawsuit, he undoubtedly said “just do it.”
- Elon Musk announces that he intends for Twitter to share revenue (perhaps with content creators on the social media platform. An open question is whether that includes a share for recording artists, songwriters. Another open question after the last few weeks is whether there will be any revenue to share.
- Pickleball remains on the upswing with Stephen Colbert manning the umpire chair for a celebrity competition that is sure to be a vlasic.
- Lastly a feel good story of mending fences with Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield joining forces to market Holy Ear cannabis gummies in an homage to the infamous moment when Tyson bit off a piece of Holyfield’s ear in a 90s heavyweight boxing match.
Welcome back to the “Spotlight!” “I’m going to Disney World” is a hallowed (and trademarked) phrase in pop culture, uttered by MVPs of major sports championships, Olympians and even “American Idol” winners before an all-expenses-paid trip to the Happiest Place on Earth (the “Spotlight” being a distant second place). Incidentally, I am none of the above and all expenses remain payable, but I am nevertheless giving you and the other seven of my readers the heads up that the “Spotlight” will be on a one-week hiatus while I don a pair of mouse ears in lieu of my writers’ hat because, well… I’m going to Disney World. Upon my return, I plan to bring back a “Tomorrowland” of my own, piloting a new section of the “Spotlight,” focused on emerging (perhaps Cinderella?) sports—whether it be relatively recent sports skyrocketing in popularity such as pickleball, cornhole and eSports, or sports such as rugby that are well-established elsewhere in the world that are on the precipice of taking a foothold in the U.S. It might sound goofy, daze-y, further out than Pluto, but I might as well “let it go” and give these fields of growth a deserved Spotlight.
- Speaking of tomorrows in sports, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy’s tech-infused sports, entertainment and media company TMRW Sports announces investment backing by some of the biggest names in the business. I guess my invitation got lost in the mail.
- Speaking of cartoon characters, as if there aren’t more pressing (let alone real) issues for figureheads in our society to address, another high-profile persona with millions of social media followers, Kyrie Irving used his platform to promote a film that pushes antisemitic disinformation and conspiracy theories. And while he has faced some public backlash, he seems unlikely to face the same response Kanye West received from his sponsorship and endorsement partners.
- Speaking of Cinderella Story, Christmas comes early for Mariah Carey as the $60 million copyright case alleging infringement by her “All I Want For Christmas Is You” was dropped. Perhaps the plaintiff realized lottery tickets were less expensive than legal fees.
Welcome back to the “Spotlight!” What a difference a week makes. Last week, I was gripped by the New York Yankees in the playoffs (a convenient excuse for writer’s block), and this week I am gripped with disappointment in yet another postseason loss to the Houston Astros. I guess it is only fitting that the Yankees’ play would be as ghastly with Halloween right around the corner. On the “bright side,” my weeknights have been freed up for the foreseeable future (Knicks and Rangers, you’re cordially invited to fill the void). Speaking of filling a void, Corporate America has finally acted to replace its deafening silence towards recent antisemitic hate speech of Kanye West, with a long overdue rebuke of the artist. Indeed, companies such as Gap, Balenciaga, Adidas, Foot Locker and TJ Maxx (the lattermost being the most severe penalty one can receive in the eyes of my mother-in-law) have all severed ties with West – likely out of some mix of principle and concern for their own bottom line. Suffice it to say, West, who ironically rebranded himself ‘Ye.’ will have to get used to hearing the word, “nay.” Which, if I may, is enough to make me say, “yay!” But credit where credit is due, how prescient of West was it to seemingly implore listeners in a 2010 track to “runaway as fast as you can?” While that advice should have been heeded then, it seems West is now losing his spotlight.
- Norfolk State University’s basketball team strikes a name, image and likeness deal with a moving company. Word to the wise, don’t have them help out if you have to travel with a fish tank – they’ve been known to dribble.
- A group of former NCAA athletes seek to certify a class action lawsuit against the NCAA for having deprived them of the right to profit off of their names, images and likenesses while still in college. Their victory would likely feel as good as finding cash in an old jean jacket pocket – thousands of times over.
- Social media image-sharing platform Pinterest strikes licensing deals with major record labels for the inclusion of music on the platform. Undoubtedly, Queen’s “I Want It All” will be a frequent play.
Welcome back to the "Spotlight," and well…I am watching the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series while writing this, so let’s just jump right into it:
- Jay-Z is taking JV (Jay-V?) partner Bacardi to Delaware Chancery Court in a bid to compel the spirits company to disclose corporate records regarding the jointly owned Cognac brand D’Usse. Not an unreasonably request if I D’Usse so myself.
- Plant-based food company Wicked Foods launches concession stand for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx home games at the Target Center selling approachable vegan fare to basketball fans. Wicked is sure to be at the tip of the tongue, especially when the Boston Celtics are in town.
- LeBron James’ son Bronny James continues to rake in NIL dollars, because apparently being really good at basketball and having a father who is really good at basketball makes you really marketable. Which is to say, my sons would do well to hit the books.
Welcome back to the "Spotlight!" If you are just wakening up from last week’s snooze-fest of a Thursday Night Football game between the Denver Broncos and the Indianapolis Colts, you have come to the right place. Allow me to bring you up to speed on some world developments over the past seven days. Kanye “Ye” West went on an antisemitic tirade for an audience of tens of millions, but not to worry, folks – Elon Musk (who is, by the way, back on course to acquire Twitter) spoke to Ye to express his concerns. Musk then went on to chat with Russian President Vladimir Putin about ending the war in Ukraine.
On a brighter note, I had the pleasure of attending the Sports Business Journal World Congress of Sports (Editor’s note: this marks just the first time in recent history that “pleasure” and “Congress” have been used in the same sentence), at which sports executives, league commissioners and other key figures discussed topics ranging from pickleball, to NIL, to eSports, to the ascendance of women’s sports, to sports betting, to collectibles, to streaming and everything in between. And although the “r” word (recession) loomed as something of a headwind, the consensus (another word not often associated with “Congress”) was that the sports industry is uniquely suited to weather the economic storm. Later, I “attended” an excellent virtual discussion between Prof. Michael McCann and ESPN College Game Day’s Rece Davis regarding NIL in college sports just a year in and where things figure to go from here.
For a nightcap, I finished it all off with a New York Yankees home playoff victory. Suffice it to say, over the next few weeks, I hope not to be getting nearly as much sleep as the well-rested Mets fans, and continue watching my Yankees deep into the October spotlight.
- Major League Baseball makes history, becoming the first major professional sports league to enter a sponsorship deal with a CBD brand, radiantly naming Charlotte’s Web as its official CBD sponsor. One can only wonder whether this move Wilbur-ing other leagues to the table.
- Private Equity stays bullish on music copyrights, with Brookfield chipping in a mere $2 billion to give Primary Wave a war chest from which to continue its acquisition of various artists’ song catalogs. $2 billion has a lot of zeroes, but that pales in comparison to the number of Spotify streams that it will take to recoup that investment.
- An early embracer of NFTs, DJ Steve Aoki’s revenue from NFTs has outpaced his earnings from music royalties – this presumably coming before the bottom fell out of the NFT market. Just goes to show you that the early bird catches the worm, but the early worm gets eaten.
Welcome back to the "Spotlight!" If you’re like me, after having fasted all day Wednesday, you’re probably relieved to be diving back into your morning coffee, mid-morning snack, mid-mid-morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack and so on. Of course, I am referring to Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement in the Jewish faith in which one seeks forgiveness for their misdeeds by neither eating nor drinking for 24 hours and then (to loosely paraphrase the Torah) gorges oneself with bagels, cream cheese and lox when all is said and done, only then to seek forgiveness of one’s cardiologist. Fittingly, over the past few days, there have been other prominent (and less caloric) instances of making amends in the realm of Sports and Entertainment. To start us off, Kim Kardashian agreed to settle charges from the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) over her having promoted via social media the EthereumMax cryptocurrency token without having disclosed that she received compensation (approximately a quarter million dollars) for the promotion. Perhaps I have been in this world for too long, but I don’t know how someone would not understand that Kardashian was being paid for the post. In any event, in lieu of fasting, Kardashian agreed to forfeit the fees she received from EthereumMax, plus a $1 million fine. Elsewhere in Hollywood, Alec Baldwin agreed to settle a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of Halyna Hutchins, the Director of Photography of the film, “Rust” who was tragically killed on set when struck by a real bullet from what was supposed to have been a benign prop gun wielded by Baldwin during filming. In this case, the sum to make Hutchins’ family “whole” was undisclosed, but unquestionably, no amount of money could ever make up for the loss. With that backdrop of doing one’s best to legally right wrongs, what, if anything, is the olive branch that will be extended to Miami Dolphins Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who—after having clearly demonstrated neurological distress following an in-game hit on September 25th, was not only cleared by a neurologist to return to the same game, but also cleared to take the field again just four days later. As you may have heard, the results of the latter decision were horrifying to see, as Thursday Night Football viewers witnessed Tagovailoa experience brain trauma that sent him straight to the hospital. Thankfully, Tagovailoa says he is doing much better, and his case is causing a re-examination of the NFL’s concussion protocols, but what comes next for him and those who might have wronged him (hopefully more than a bagel and a schmear) is a question that will remain, for the time being, in the "Spotlight."
- As the mid-term elections approach, on tap for the new Congress will likely be a renewed look at federal name, image and likeness (NIL) legislation. For the sake of leveling the playing field across all states and athletic programs, hopefully the outcome will be greater than NIL.
- Chris Hemsworth, who plays the role of Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is in far better shape than me, signs an exclusive first look deal with NatGeo Channel. The announcement itself is not that all unusual given that he’s not someone who likes to be low-key (get it…Lo-ki?).
- Phil Collins and two Genesis bandmates sell their song catalog for approximately $300 million. For Collins, it’s just another day in paradise.
Welcome back to the "Spotlight!' In this crazy world, if there’s one thing that makes sense, it’s that nothing makes sense. LeBron James seems to have joined the same bandwagon as my parents and taken an interest in pickleball. For those uninitiated to the sport, picture a tennis court—then shrink it, and with paddles larger than for ping pong, but smaller than for tennis. Oh, and a brightly colored wiffleball in lieu of furry neon ball. Unlike my parents, however, LeBron, through his venture fund, has purchased a stake in a professional pickleball team. Given that LeBron’s bread and butter is basketball, it might seem as if he’s gherkin us around with a half-sour investment, but in point of fact, pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and has taken the interest of many other high-profile investors. Speaking of pickles, former NFL quarterback Brett Favre finds himself in one as allegations of his misappropriating Mississippi (there, I spelled it) state welfare funds continue to mount against him. So far, no criminal charges have been brought against Favre, but the court of public opinion is decidedly against him. Turns out that a reverse Robin Hood multimillionaire taking money away from poor people is not exactly the type of story one would want to cast them in a favorable (Favre-ble?) spotlight.
- Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund-backed LIV Golf is forced to buy airtime from Fox Sports. Usually, it’s the league from which the network buys airtime – not the other way around. Then again, golf is a sport in which the lowest score wins, so perhaps we should view this move in that light.
- As cryptocurrency exchange company Crypto.com can attest, here’s no denying the marketing power of sports sponsorship. In that regard, it makes sense that a new investment app called Scout, would be seeking name, image and likeness (NIL) deals on college campuses in an effort to fuel college student sign-ups. Then again, free pizza also goes a long way.
- Maybe it is the headwinds from the world economy, but the market for NFTs has drastically cooled off. In a related story, Melania Trump is selling Christmas NFTs.
Welcome back to the “Spotlight” and to the best season, Autumn (nine out of 10 dentists agree). The Sun is setting earlier and the mercury in our thermometers is falling. Ironically, majority owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury franchises, Robert Sarver appears to be in the midst of a sunset and falling of his own. Indeed, one week after being smacked down with a $10 million dollar fine and one year ban on NBA and WNBA activities after an independent investigation revealed a systemic pattern of sexual harassment and racially-charged language in the Suns and Mercury front office, Sarver appears to be succumbing to public pressure to do what many believe should have been forced upon him by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver: sell the franchises. Whether the impetus for this action was some sort of intervention by fellow owners, Sarver’s coming to grips with his conscience, or maybe even the realization that sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace is…not great for business, the decision to sell the teams is shocking, but not surprising. Most perplexing, however, is how and why this history—not unique to the world of sports—keeps repeating itself. As it is said, pride comes before the fall, just as wordplay comes before (and during) the “Spotlight:”
- Cashback rebate company Ibotta re-ups its jersey sponsorship deal with the New Orleans Pelicans. Too bad Abbott and Costello aren’t around to do an “Ibotta jersey” routine.
- Kanye “Ye” West terminates his YEEZY Gap partnership deal with Gap, Inc. that was supposed to have been a long-term fruitful partnership for the pair. Sounds like the perfect opening for a Gap x Pete Davidson deal.
- Originally a star of the 2000s, Christina Aguilera is keeping up with the times by filing for NFT and metaverse-oriented trademarks. The applications are likely to withstand U.S. Patent and Trademark Office scrutiny, on account of they are beautiful in every single way, and words cannot bring them down.
Welcome back to the "Spotlight!" One of the many peculiarities of the English language is the phrase, “family business.” The phrase can refer to a business that is owned and/or operated by several family members. It can also refer to private matters generally dealt with amongst family members. More recently, in the sports world, “family” and “business” seem to have been colliding. A few weeks ago, NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal’s brand management firm, Authentic Brands Group, opposed a trademark application by his son, Shaqir O’Neal’s representatives on the grounds that a trademark for Shaqir O’Neal would cause a likelihood of confusion with the elder O’Neal’s trademark for “Shaquille O’Neal.” This of course fits with Shaquille’s championing a work ethic to his children—“we ain’t rich, I’m rich.” For the famous parents out there, if it was not hard enough to agree with one’s partner on a baby son or daughter’s name, it seems you might also be wise to involve a trademark attorney in those discussions. Not to be outdone, after encountering difficulty obtaining a trademark registration for his name, NBA star Luka Doncic is embroiled in a dispute with his mother over her continued ownership of the registration for the trademark LUKA DONCIC7 (which was cited by the United States Patent and Trademark Office as grounds for its registration refusal). The rub is that the trademark, LUKA DONCIC7 was previously obtained with Doncic’s consent. Doncic is seeking to revoke that consent and to argue that the registration should be cancelled both on those grounds and due to non-use. Peering into my crystal ball, the most likely winners in these sagas will be lawyers…and therapists. I guess such is life when your family business gets aired in the "Spotlight."
- Jack Daniel’s and McLaren Racing toast to an F1 sponsorship deal, because nothing goes together better than Tennessee whiskey and driving at 200 miles per hour.
- Major League Soccer club Real Salt Lake City inks a stadium naming rights deal with America First Credit Union, rebranding the Utah stadium, “America First Field” to the tune of about $100 million. With that money, the Club will be able to erect a wall around the borders of the field.
- With a trademark filing for NFT-backed music, Sony Music Entertainment looks poised to separate itself from the pack and find new ways to separate consumers from their money with a pivot towards Web3 and the Metaverse.
The Sports, Arts & Entertainment group at Foster Garvey provides full service legal representation on sports, entertainment and business matters, including handling transactions related to brand management, licensing, joint ventures, venture capital, private equity, technology, the Internet and new media.