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TikTok Football PlayerWelcome back to the Spotlight – to you and me alike. With my being AWOL for the past two weeks, I would like to say that I was doing research to perfect my brackets or chasing leprechauns. But, since I do not have a pot of gold from either pursuit, I guess we can chalk up my absence to some behind-the-scenes retooling for the third year (wow!) of this blog/newsletter/digest.

Yes, as we celebrate our third anniversary (leather is the traditional gift, by the way) we show no signs of slowing down. The Spotlight also has the added benefit of not being a national security threat.

The same cannot be said for TikTok, whose name echoes the countdown to its possible shutdown. Understandably, voices throughout the sports and entertainment industry are concerned that cutting the American people off from TikTok’s short form video platform may not only hurt collegiate athletes whose NIL marketing value is highly correlated to their social media following, but also artists and musicians whose music can be taken to new heights through viral dance accompaniments (and other things I am getting too old to understand). But, to them I say: “not to worry.” On the whole, the risk of being spied on by a foreign adversary seems to carry a little more weight. And in any event, once upon a time, there was another short form video platform called “Vine” that was abruptly discontinued and replaced with a short form video platform called…TikTok. So maybe the answer lies in a Vine reboot – after all, nowadays sequels and reboots dominate the entertainment spotlight.

    • Tiger Woods’ TMRW Sports nets a trio of past and present NBA superstars on its cap table as Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant invest in the tech-forward sports venture.

    • Comedian Kevin Hart signs a multi-year extension with SiriusXM for the development of podcasts and radio shows on its satellite platform. No small feat from a man that has two of them.

    • In an apparent victory for common sense, the prospective FIFA Women’s World Cup Sponsorship by Saudi Arabia’s tourism authority has been called off. Turns out that using women’s sports as a vehicle to encourage travel to a nation with an inferior record for women’s rights is not a good look. Go figure.

    • Lindsay Lohan is among a list of eight celebrities accused by the Securities Exchange Commission of promoting cryptocurrencies without adequately disclosing she was being compensated to do so. She can add that to her rap sheet that includes allegedly pushing Regina George in front of a bus.

Welcome back to the Spotlight, and with it (in like a lion…) the college basketball-dominated month of March.  And wow, in case it was not on your radar, madam, allow me to fulfill my civic duty to level with you and refer you to the fact that today’s date (3/2/23) is a palindrome—a mirror-image sequence that reads the same backwards and forwards. Bonus points if you caught all of them in that sentence. With that backdrop, as good a place as any at which to start is with two young women of college basketball who are mirror images of one another: The Cavinder Twins. Haley and Hanna (almost a palindrome) Cavinder are two of the most recognized names in the NIL era, leveraging their star power and social media following to command multiple six figure endorsement deals at Fresno State University and more recently at the University of Miami. So, that is perhaps why late last week the NCAA made its very first NIL era enforcement action with regard to conduct surrounding the Cavinders and the apparent inducements given to them to become Miami Hurricanes.  In doing so, the NCAA appears to this writer and to many other observers to be taking a shot across the bow to universities and their boosters (i.e., affiliated alumni who support the school’s athletic programs) alike, notwithstanding the relatively light penalties (a three game suspension for the Cavinders’ coach, a fine and a limited restriction on recruitment activities), but it stopped short of dissociating the billionaire booster from the University. However, as much as the move seemed calculated to send a message to take another look in the mirror before acting, it also seemed to signal self-restraint out of fear of being embroiled in a politically and financially costly antitrust litigation. Speaking of politics, the NCAA’s best chance of again wielding decisive enforcement power lies with comprehensive federal legislation from the house of mirrors that is the US Congress. So the question remains: unless/until that happens, is the NCAA’s use of the Cavinders’ recruitment a high profile bluff or a prelude to its dropping the hammer on the next booster looking to lure an athlete with a spotlight?

    • Music copyrights still appear to be an attractive investment for private equity markets, as Lyric Capital closes a fund with $800 million in commitments. Meaning, it’s still not too late for me to begin writing music. On the other hand, singing is out of the question. 
    • Undoubtedly fueled by the success of the Netflix docuseries, Formula 1, Formula One racing enjoyed record fan attendance last year. Fan engagement that brings people from their living room to the stands seems to be a formula won. 
    • Adidas renewed its partnership with Major League Soccer to outfit its players for the 2023 Season, narrowly averting the prospect of barefooted, shirts and skins soccer matches. 

Welcome back to the Spotlight! Having just celebrated Presidents’ Day here in the U.S., where better to begin than an ode to our various Commanders-in-Chief. Fittingly, 2-time Super Bowl-winning Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy just moved to the Commanders from the Chiefs (though the fact that he himself is still not a commander in chief—a head coach—remains a head-scratching and potentially ugly truth in the NFL). Now with that news of his heading to Washington, I wonder how this former student of UW-Madison might Ford a transition to Lincoln to the rest of the sports and entertainment headlines.  Well, I will try not to beat around the Bush, I’m just Biden my time. A few more lines? I Grant you that I could Fillmore, that’s probably Truman. But I should get on with it so my editors do not put the Nixon this piece. If this Arthur’s presidential wordplay has left you in a Hayes, here is the spotlight to help you Pierce through to find your way.

    • Netflix and NFL Films join forces for a docu-series entitled “Quarterback,” following two-time Super Bowl champion, Patrick Mahomes, as well as Kirk Cousins and Marcus Mariota – yet it still does not feel right to lump those three into the same sentence. 
    • Smash hit song “Flowers” performed by Miley Cyrus and co-written by Michael Pollack, find itself atop the Billboard Hot 100 charts (not to mention charts across the globe). With that buzz, I would take myself dancing, too.
    • New week, same surge in popularity and investments, as Kevin Durant’s 35 Ventures provides financial backing to a venture pickleball technology company and New York City unveils its first permanent, dedicated pickleball club.
    • No luck of the Irish for this former Boston Celtic as former NBA Star Paul Pierce (no relation to Franklin Pierce) agreed to pay a $1.4 million penalty to the Securities Exchange Commission arising out of his failure to disclose that he was a paid endorser of a particular cryptocurrency, adding insult to injury on the money he presumably already lost on cryptocurrency.

Welcome back to the Spotlight! First, a hearty congratulations to the world champion Kansas City Chiefs (an empty gesture if there ever was one—as I am fairly confident none of the Chiefs read this, but if not, hit me up!). As in years past, the Super Bowl prove itself to be a pop culture spectacle par excellence (I don’t know what that means, but it sure sounds fancy), with commercials of varying levels of poignancy, absurdity and cleverness, rife with athletes and entertainers and homages. Among the stand-outs, was the solo(-ish) halftime performance by Rihanna.   

Indeed, nestled cozily inside what was a rather entertaining game, Rihanna, who’s so famous that she’s known only by one name, revealed that she had a baby nestled cozily inside what was a rather entertaining Rihanna. Tough act to follow for future baby announcements but perhaps Rihanna will opt for a more low-key setting for the eventual gender reveal, like the Olympic torch lighting ceremony. 

Say what you will, but Rihanna made the most of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show--for which she was not even directly compensated. Since Sunday’s performance (the second most watched Super Bowl halftime show), Rihanna’s seeing an over 640% increase in streaming and a 390% increase in record sales. Neither this fact nor the towering heights the artist reached during her performance were likely on the artist’s mind when she recorded the Oscar-nominated song “Lift Me Up,” but it makes for an easy dad joke. Although Rihanna (herself worth upwards of $1.4 billion when factoring in her music career and various business ventures) did not need the resulting windfall, with another mouth to feed, she embraced the extra spotlight.  

    • Celebrity chef (and fabled enunciator of the word, “spaghetti”) Giada De Laurentiis inks a first look television development deal with Amazon Studios. No squid were harmed in the process.
    • The valuation of connected fitness company Tonal appears to have taken a big hit since the pandemic-related boom. Paired with the news above, it sounds like couch sales may go through the roof.
    • Sixteen-year-old, top-ranked pickleball champion Anna Leigh Waters signs an endorsement deal with a wealth management company, as she is poised to receive wealth to be managed.    

Welcome back to the Spotlight! We are just days away from the NFL championship game (I was scared away from using the more popularly used, and heavily policed name for the game [see:]), and to be candid, I do not have a dog in the race. On the one hand, there are the Philadelphia Eagles, whose victory would catch my ire as a New York Giants fan and would (for reasons still unclear to many New Yorkers) likely turn the Empire State Building green and white, once more. On the other hand, there are the Kansas City Chiefs, whose victory would be their second in the past four years and would almost certainly guarantee more insufferable TikTok dancing from QB Patrick Mahomes II’s brother, Jackson.  Instead, I will most definitely be interested in the halftime show and the commercials (most notably the several that I have had the privilege of working on over the past few months #humblebrag).  And to the extent that I am still longing for dogs in the race, well I have the Puppy Bowl earlier in the day on Sunday to lift my spirits and carry me through to next season when I hope my team will be in the championship spotlight.   

    • Madison Square Garden Sports is rumored to be exploring a sale of a minority interest in the New York Knicks and New York Rangers. I would make a joke, but I would like to continue being one of the lawyers that is not denied entry to Madison Square Garden.  
    • Artist Mason Rothschild found himself on the losing end of a trademark infringement trial where Parisian fashion house Hermes filed suit asserted claims against Rothschild for his Metabirkins NFT project that put a metaverse spin on Hermes’ famous Birkin bags. Not the first and certainly will not be the last time someone loses money on NFTs.
    • Louisiana State University Women’s Basketball star Angel Reese files a trademark for her nickname “Bayou Barbie” and is likely to face opposition from Barbie® doll company Mattel (if not an NIL deal). After all, in trademark law, asserting rights in names likely to cause confusion is not something you Ken do.
    • As part of cost-cutting and restructuring measures for the media conglomerate, Disney does not intend to spin-off its ESPN properties, but it has announced layoffs of (Snow White and the) seven thousand workers.

Welcome back to the Spotlight! Ok readers, rise and shine and don’t forget your booties ‘cause it’s coooold out there. That line of course being inspired by the 1992 Harold Ramis film, “Groundhog Day” seems awfully relevant on account of…it’s Groundhog Day, at least in my neck of the woods, we’re in for a deep freeze and like Bill Murray’s character, Phil Connors, we find ourselves waking up to a day that we have lived before: the day after NFL great Tom Brady’s retirement. Indeed, just yesterday, Brady emerged from his post-playoff hibernation and announced that he is retiring “for good.” Strange timing after having been rumored to be linked to a trade that would have moved the 45 year old quarterback to the San Francisco 49ers. Perhaps the franchise rebuffed Brady’s attempts to change its name to the 45ers. Perhaps Brady didn’t see his shadow. Whatever the reason, like last time, he has a doozy of a next step in a $375 million broadcasting deal for the NFL on FOX. That to go on top of a nest egg built through business ventures, investments and endorsements during his professional career (not to mention his salary). Much more than what the lion’s share of athletes can say for themselves upon retirement (at least without the right guidance). Believe him this time or not, but one way or another—as sure as Sonny and Cher have got their babes—we will still be seeing a lot of Brady in the Sunday spotlight. 

    • Breakfast company Post unveils a line of on-the-go cold cereal cups under the brand name “OK GO,” for which all one needs to add is cold water and promptly tries to throw cold water on indie rock band OK Go’s attempts to have Post stop using its name. The case Post filed in federal court to seek a judgment declaring that it may continue using the name will hinge on the open question under trademark law is whether a consumer is likely to confuse the cereal cups as being affiliated with or originating from the band.  Meanwhile, less of an open question is whether one is likely to confuse just-add-water breakfast cereal with breakfast cereal to which you add milk.
    • Jaden Rashada, the four star quarterback that bolted from the University of Florida after the $13 million NIL deal he was promised fell through, finds his way from one mirage to another, heading out to the desert to play for Arizona State University.
    • Universal and TIDAL join forces to build what they believe will be a more “artist- and fan-friendly” streaming model.  (Pssst…that’s code for a more Universal- and TIDAL-friendly streaming model). 

Welcome back to the Spotlight! Those of you who stopped by last week may recall my lamentations about writer’s block and musing whether I would be better off giving the reins to ChatGPT or some other artificial intelligence program.  But this, my friends, is a different week – as I have been fortuitously gifted with a gem of a topic that practically writes itself.  I am of course talking about the fact that BMG Rights Management, the copyright administrator for the Black Eyed Peas’ musical composition, “My Humps” filed a lawsuit against toy company, MGA Entertainment for its parodic song and music video entitled…(drumroll please)…”My Poops.”

Indeed, “My Poops,” which was used by MGA to market its Poopsie Slime Surprise product line of toy dancing unicorns that excrete sparkling slime, is alleged to be an unlicensed rip-off of “My Humps,” that is performed In a similar style.  Never mind the unintentional humor that the ‘Peas are being pitted against the Poops (shoutout to my sons f that one), this case may create new precedent for copyright’s fair use doctrine depending on how far the parties (and nature) call to take it.  Lord willing, this case will go through colorful (perhaps sparkling rainbow) depositions and oral arguments all the way to the Supreme Court and become a mainstay for law school textbooks. I mean, if ever there was a case to usher in the next generation of entertainment lawyers, it is this one. One thing is for sure: all that glitters is definitely not gold, but it still twinkles in the spotlight.

    • Need more reason to be Pickle-bullish? The fastest growing sport is continuing its ascent as Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) strikes deals with ESPN and CBS for its matches to be televised.  
    • American Cricket Enterprises (ACE), the entity operating Major League Cricket (MLC), has raised more than $100 million, in hopes that the American audience and aspiring athletes stateside will take to the world’s second most watched sport. My self-assigned homework now includes studying the Cricket rule book.
    • UK music investment firm Hipgnosis Songs acquires the rights to Justin Bieber’s entire music catalogue for an estimated $200 million. No disrespect to the Biebs, but Hipgnosis may have overpaid. Between you and me, my mail carrier gives me plenty of catalogues free of charge.

Welcome to the Spotlight. I must admit, dear reader, that sometimes words escape me and the task of writing weekly can feel burdensome (I know, I know—not as burdensome as reading weekly). There are certainly times when I feel like I could push a button and have it all laid out for me.  Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning is poised to make that possible in many facets of the sports and entertainment industries.  Increasingly, we may hear songs written entirely by machines (lest you rage against one) and even see play calling at sporting events driven by AI data—eerie to think that human intelligence in that regard could be rendered obsolete. So with that in mind, I need to push through the writer’s block to maintain my rightful position. With any luck, it will be years before AI figures out dad humor, but I can only hope the machines will view me as an ally in that regard. The same cannot be said of Getty Images, who just made the bold move of filing a lawsuit against AI company OpenAI alleging unauthorized scraping of data from the former’s image database.  I don’t know how many among you are science fiction film buffs, but whenever artificial intelligence is challenged, things do not go well—especially if the challenger winds up under a spotlight.

    • The University of Florida’s 5-star Quarterback recruit requests out of his letter of intent to join the school’s football program after his $13 million NIL deal falls through. Gator fans can take solace in having paid him nada.
    • Shifting gears from Florida to Flo Rida, a jury awarded the rapper over $82 million in his lawsuit against the makers of Celsius brand energy drinks, arising out of its failure to pay him pursuant to a 2014 endorsement deal. This must be one of those times Flo Rida has a “good feeling.”  
    • Hulu’s original comedy series, Only Murders in the Building adds Meryl Streep to its impressive cast of beloved Hollywood actors and Martin Short.

Welcome back to the Spotlight! We find ourselves at an interesting moment where, on the one hand, tech companies are laying off tens of thousands of workers apiece in the face of economic headwinds, Elon Musk claims from Guinness World Records the dubious honor of having lost the largest personal fortune in history ($182 billion, bringing his total net worth to a “paltry” $147 billion) and the price of eggs would make a golden goose blush. On the other hand, the sports and entertainment world seems to be suffering from no such ill effects as large sums of capital continue to be invested into various entities without much sign of slowing down (and that’s to say nothing of professional athletes’ salaries). Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes seems to have decided that “owning” the NFL is not enough, instead he owns equity in major Kansas City sports teams such as the MLS’ Sporting Kansas City, MLB’s Kansas City Royals and most recently the NWSL’s Kansas City Current.  Safe to say he’s not in any financial Missouri. World Wrestling Entertainment Chairman of the Board Vince McMahon is said to be considering a real $8 billion sale of the professional fake wrestling league to Saudi interests. And with 95 of the top 100 highest rated events in 2022 being sports, there’s little doubt that sports and entertainment will remain a bright spot in a down economy—almost like a spotlight. 

    • Just nine days removed from suffering cardiac arrest on an NFL field, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin has happily been discharged from the hospital. As he continues to recover, he’s also got business in mind, filing for two trademarks, “DID WE WIN” and “THREE IS BACK,” to pay homage to his first words in the hospital, while hinting at a triumphant return to the gridiron. 
    • An investor group that includes Cincinnati Bengals Quarterback Joe Burrow and Boston Celtics Forward Blake Griffin purchased a 128 acre plot of farmland in rural Iowa. But to Ray Kinsella’s chagrin, this appears to be a bonafide agriculture investment. 
    • More celebrity endorsements and investments in the cannabis industry paired with many states’ legalization of marijuana, mean that perhaps it’s high time that the plant formerly seen as taboo make its way into the mainstream.  

Welcome back to the Spotlight and welcome to the year 2023.

As if we needed yet another reminder not to take anything for granted, keep our priorities in check (and other similar platitudes proven time and again over the last three years), we start off the year with sobering and gut-wrenching images of Buffalo Bills Safety Damar Hamlin’s tragic and unprecedented on-field injury during Monday Night Football against the Cincinnati Bengals. As players, coaches and millions of fans watched Hamlin collapse, require life-saving interventions and be taken out of the stadium in an ambulance following a hard collision with Bengals Wide Receiver Tee Higgins, the collective focus shifted (rightly so) from the football game to the well-being of Hamlin.  Eventually, after what felt like perhaps too much time, the correct decision was made to postpone the game so as to allow the teams to be there for each other and process the trauma.  Meanwhile, Monday’s events also served as a reminder of the ugliness of social media, as Hamlin’s injury opened up the Twitter cesspool to poor, unfortunate souls wondering about the plight of their fantasy football team, directing hate toward Higgins, and yes, even attempting to link Hamlin’s injury to COVID-19 vaccinations. On the other hand (apropos of a film that worked on, and finally got to see over the holiday break, “The Social Dilemma”), there was also glimmers of altruism in social media as a GoFundMe page for Hamlin’s foundation saw its children’s toy drive fundraising campaign balloon to over $7 million at the time of this writing (its goal had been to raise a mere $2,500). So for those looking for a silver lining to start the New Year, it’s the players, coaches and fans who deserve the spotlight.  

    • While short form video creation app TikTok wielded even greater influence on the music industry in 2022, the US Government issued an order banning the use of the app on Federal workers’ mobile devices. The official reason for the move is to protect national security but I suspect it may also be rooted in the desire not to expose the public to Supreme Court Justices’ choreography.
    • An NCAA Committee announced a proposal to expand its Men’s and Women’s National Championship College Basketball Tournaments fields from 68 teams to 90 teams. Great news for those among us (no one) who find filling out a bracket not to be challenging enough.
    • Although some songwriters may have made New Year’s resolutions to slim down, the Copyright Royalty Board’s decision to approve increased streaming royalty rates is sure to fatten their pockets.

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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.
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