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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.  

If you’re joining me as a reader this week, kudos to you for having used proper eye protection for the solar eclipse. This week, between the college basketball season coming to an end, and the NBA and NHL’s regular season winding down, I wanted to focus in on the young baseball season—namely, my beloved New York Yankees. It’s early, but something about this year’s team is special and exciting. Newcomers (Juan Soto, Alex Verdugo and Marcus Stroman) have stepped seamlessly into the lineup alongside other big names like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and have already contributed remarkably not only on the field but to the team’s culture. 

Meanwhile, young prospects Oswaldo Cabrera and to a greater extent, Anthony Volpe have become rising stars. The team chemistry and energy is palpable and has already propelled these “DAWGS” to a a handful of come-from-behind victories en route to the best record in the MLB. The established talent and star power (and yes, substantial payroll) of the Yankees roster—as in years past—has never been in doubt. Yet, the Yankees have consistently underperformed for a decade. The lesson? You can have all the talent in the world on your team (an agent, a business manager, a lawyer), but without quality people around you to support and motivate you as a family would (in good times and bad), you’re unlikely to reach the heights you aim to achieve. Through the first few weeks of the season, the Yankees appear to have something.

    • eBay purchases major sports memorabilia auction house Goldin Auctions from Collectors Holdings. Not only was the transaction motivated by an apparent desire to compete with Fanatics, but also free shipping and a 99.8% Feedback Score.

    • This week Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Shohei Ohtani’s former interpreter Ippei Mizuhara was charged by U.S. Attorney’s Office for bank fraud, allegedly stealing $16 million from Ohtani for illegal gambling (talk about surrounding yourself with the right people!). In uncovered text messages to his bookie, Mizuhara damningly says “technically I did steal from [Ohtani]. It’s all over for me.” To my chagrin, there was no text reading “Ohtani boyyy, the Feds, the Feds are calling.”

    • Step aside pickleball, the sport professional curling (essentially an icy version of shuffleboard with large kettle-sized stones and brooms) may be taking a move into the mainstream with a strategic acquisition by an investor group with lofty ambitions for the sports. But with the amount of ice dwindling on the planet, it might be a better investment to put the big bucks behind sports that can be played on barren wastelands. 

Suffice it to say that the Women’s basketball revolution was indeed televised, as this past week 12.3 million viewers tuned in to watch Caitlin Clark’s University of Iowa Hawkeyes take on Angel Reese’s Louisiana State University Tigers in a rematch of last year’s national championship game. This year, it was Clark who had the upper hand, powering her team to victory and on to their second consecutive Final Four appearance. Both stars, propelled into American households in no small part due to their talent and availing themselves of name, image and likeness (NIL) deals, are certain to square off again in the WNBA (endorsing rivaling chocolate and peanut butter candy bars would be a layup, too). But let’s get back to the numbers. 12.3 million viewers is more than any other ESPN televised college basketball game ever, more than any other women’s college basketball game ever, more than any MLB, NHL and MLS game last season and more than nearly all other NBA basketball games and College Football games last season. Oh and the average ticket price of this year’s Women’s Final Four is about double that of the Men’s Final Four. Seems *oh so* reasonable given that media rights and pay for women’s sports is in parity with men’s sports…right??? (Checks notes…sighhh…) Never mind. But hey, there’s no time like the present for a change! 

    • Beyoncé’s Country Album “Cowboy Carter” spurs a rewriting of the history books, becoming the most single day streamed album in Spotify history.
    • The premiere of Season 3 of Ryan Reynolds’s and Rob McElhenney’s “Welcome to Wrexham” is being delayed from April 18 to May 2 for reasons currently unknown. In other words, if you had plans to host a viewing party on April 18, this news wrecks ‘em. 
    • Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Center Joel Embiid was well-received in his return to action this week, notably sporting Skechers basketball sneakers. In so doing, Embiid joins Snoop Dogg as a high profile endorsement partner. For those keeping track at home, there’s two “I’s” in Embiid, two “G’s” in Dogg, no “T’s” in Skechers and I before e, except after c. 

I write this piece still licking my wounds from a rough week that saw my alma mater University of Wisconsin Badgers lay an egg against James Madison University in the first round of the Men’s NCAA basketball tournament (we’re still unquestionably the superior Madison) and come up one goal short against Ohio State University in the Women’s NCAA Hockey National Championship. That misfortune is to say nothing of my utterly destroyed NCAA tournament brackets.

But no matter.

Just ahead this early Spring weekend is a full slate of opening weekend Major League Baseball games, where I can once again rebuild my hopes (perhaps only to have them dashed in a few months’ time) while digging into Cadbury Mini Eggs (only the U.K. version will do). But before that sheer Easter candy bliss, I share the following with you: my Peeps.

    • Tennessee becomes the first of these United States to pass legislation entitled the ELVIS Act, that is targeted at Artificial Intelligence (AI) imitations of musical acts. Quite the bit of hypocrisy from the Volunteer State. They turn a blind eye to fat guys with long sideburns, rhinestones and gyrating hips to impersonating an artist, but when a machine gets in on the act, all bets are off. 
    • Iowa Hawkeyes Guard Caitlin Clark has been a TV ratings machine over the past few months of college basketball. Advertisers and sponsors have already taken note, but now Ice Cube is offering $5 million for her to play 10 games for his 3-on-3 basketball league, Big3.  Somehow that offer isn’t as shocking as the approximately $75,000 base salary she stands to make next year in the WNBA.
    • The NFL is planning to take a regular season game on the road to Brazil, to be streamed exclusively on Peacock. I guess Amazon carrying the game would have been a little too on-the-nose.

With the billions of advertising and media rights dollars invested, the nearly $3 billion in legal bets that are estimated to be wagered (not including the bracket pools run by your colleague’s second removed cousin that will inevitably be won by someone who knows nothing about sports but who picked winners based on the teams’ mascots) and the gazillions (give or take) of dollars in lost worker productivity, the NCAA Men’s and Women’s College Basketball Tournaments is poised to once again capture hearts, minds and wallets across the country. But due to the degree of upheaval in college sports, many observers suspect that future iterations of the Tournaments may be irrevocably altered. I hope not. Each year, the Tournaments bring with them compelling storylines (whether it be Caitlin Clark continuing her historic career or Long Beach State University’s coach Dan Monson, fired before his team’s winning an automatic bid to the Men’s Tournament, coaching his squad with nothing to lose) and Cinderella stories made even more improbable by the consolidation of talent through NIL recruiting at wealthier schools. It would be a shame for any of that to go away. For now, let’s enjoy what we have this year and hope for the best for next. Oh and let’s go Badgers. 

    • There is a vacancy to be the interpreter Los Angeles Dodgers dual threat weapon Shohei Ohtani, as his former interpreter faces allegations he stole $4.5m from Ohtani. It must have been an awkward moment for the interpreter when he had to break the news in two languages.

    • Dunkin’s next phase of its “DunKings” Super Bowl ad campaign that featured Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Tom Brady is to pivot to regally named menu items including “Short King Spring” meant to celebrate smaller sized men and small iced coffees. Now that’s something I could get behind…on my tippy-toes.

    • Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions is riding the success of its Netflix documentary series “Quarterback” to produce a follow-up series following NFL wide receivers and tight ends entitled “Receiver.” If Omaha continues down this road, there is a glimmer of hope that “Referees” or “Punters” may not be all that far off. 

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