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Welcome back to the "Spotlight!" Two of the biggest stories in sports right now are if and/or when professional athletes will themselves be welcomed back. First, is a case (unofficially captioned “you can’t have your cake and eat it too”) in which several professional golfers who bolted the PGA Tour for a king’s ransom from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund-backed LIV Golf are seeking a ruling reinstating them for competition in the PGA Tour’s playoff series. If that sounded to you like a longer shot than a hole-in-one on a par 5, you would be right. After all, as the judge reasoned, the golfers were already making more money on the LIV Tour than they could reasonably expect to make in PGA Tour competition.

Elsewhere, Cleveland Browns Quarterback Deshaun Watson is awaiting word on how long he will be suspended due to the dozens of sexual assault allegations against him during his tenure with the Houston Texans. Initially, Judge Sue L. Robinson ruled that Watson would miss the first six games of the season. That ruling has since been appealed by the NFL, with Commissioner Roger Goodell now seeking a season-long ban for Watson. Regardless, the Cleveland Browns have Deshaun Watson slated to start the team’s first preseason game. So, either the Cleveland Browns know something we all don’t know or they’re the Cleveland Browns. In any event, the controversies surrounding the LIV Golfers and Watson have made them all untouchable in the eyes of brands seeking endorsement partners. Suffice it to say, this is not quite the spotlight they are looking for. For you, however, here’s the "Spotlight" that you are looking for:

    • The consumer watchdog Truth in Advertising sent warning letters to numerous celebrities who have been peddling NFT projects, notifying them that they may be in violation of Federal Trade Commission regulations for failure to disclose financial interests in the projects. Still needed for many in the public is a disclosure of what NFTs are.
    • Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ recent revelations about improvement in his game after drinking ayahuasca tea may have moved psychedelics closer into the mainstream. And who could argue with that? After all, Rodgers became the first player in NFL history to win 32 Super Bowl championships in a single season.
    • Perhaps looking to further leverage his recent acquisition of Welsh Football (Soccer) Club Wrexham A.F.C., Ryan Reynolds and his production company Maximum Effort entered into an unscripted first-look development deal with sports streaming service FuboTV. Reynolds continues to add to the winning streak that started when he decided not to be Green Lantern anymore.

Welcome back to the "Spotlight!" Many may recall perhaps, one of the most ‘gutsy’ performances in NBA Finals history was Michael Jordan’s 1997 ‘Flu Game’ in which he heroically willed himself through the doldrums of food poisoning, scoring 38 points and leading the Chicago Bulls to a Game Five victory against the Utah Jazz. Little did Jordan know that 25 years later, his mental and intestinal fortitude would inspire a sports and entertainment lawyer battling the same foe – food poisoning, not the Utah Jazz – to proceed with writing his weekly S&E digest for the masses (three is a crowd, so I am assuming “masses” is four or more). With any luck, this installment will beget yet another legendary showing 25 years from now on par with the likes of ‘His Airness’ and ‘His Lack-of-Self-Awareness.” So, to whoever out there it may be, let this be a message to you that the next time you are feeling Pepto-abysmal, don’t let that keep you from basketball immortality, writing a modestly-successful newsletter or otherwise seizing the Spotlight.

    • Although Mixed Martial Artist Conor McGregor has been kept out of competition due to a fractured broken leg, it sounds like the leg may be healthy enough for him to appear alongside star Jake Gyllenhaal in the reboot of the 1989 Patrick Swayze cult film “Road House.” Remakes being a tricky proposition, the film itself might not have a leg to stand on.
    • Professional Golfer Phil Mickelson and nine other LIV Golf players filed an Antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour in response to having been barred from participating in PGA Tour-sanctioned tournaments. Ironic given that ‘anti-trust’ is precisely how many feel towards Mickelson after conflicting statements about LIV Golf.
    • Pop singer Shakira faces up to eight years in prison for alleged tax fraud in Spain. On the bright side, she has the presumption of honesty on account of her hips don’t lie.
    • NIL platform Opendorse takes endorsement and sponsorship deals for collegiate athletes’ to fans. Greek row might have just found a new recruitment tool.

Welcome back to the "Spotlight." Rest assured that I have leveraged perhaps one of the greatest inventions in human history–central air-conditioning–to make it through last week’s heat wave in New York. So I feel the pain of my colleagues out in the Pacific Northwest, where the air typically requires no conditioning. Seattle clouds and rain probably sound pretty good right about now. At any rate, for those looking to hole-up inside, I have a shameless, unabashedly nepotistic plug for all nine of you readers out there: my cousin Nina Bloomgarden stars in the Peacock series, “The Resort” debuting tonight. If that’s not enough, my other cousin (Nina’s sister) Gabriela is due to be a featured performer in Walker: Independence. All of which is to say, Bloomgardens’ entertainment industry garden is well, blooming. So to paraphrase Chief Brody from Jaws, “you’re gonna need a bigger Spotlight.”

    • No sooner does Kobalt Music Publishing pull its catalog of 700,000 songs from Facebook and Instagram’s services, but Meta Platforms announces that it is finally adopting an ad revenue sharing model for musicians whose songs are used in user generated content (UGC)–the first of its kind among social media platforms. Assuming this is a negotiating tactic by Kobalt, this is the B2B equivalent of unfriending a person in hopes that they will start paying attention to them. Now would be a great time to queue up “Bye, Bye, Bye” by ‘NSYNC if not for the fact that the rights to that song are administered by Kobalt.
    • It’s not often that a law firm inks an endorsement deal with a professional athlete. [Redacted]’s decision to sever ties with a professional golfer joining the Saudi-backed organization LIV Golf highlights precisely why it’s so rare. Even rarer? A law firm endorsing another law firm.
    • U.S. sprinter Fred Kerley joins forces with a startup sports underwear company CXP. Fingers and toes crossed that CXP unveils a tagline “the underwear that makes you go.”

Welcome back to the "Spotlight," where you can come in for the week’s thought provoking Sports & Entertainment stories and stay for the air conditioning. Yes, there’s a heat wave in progress here in New York (joining the countless other places in peril on this planet), that I would say feels like a sauna, but that would be an insult to saunas. Happily, as perhaps a vestige of the normal past, my New York Yankees have been bringing the heat (in a non-civilization threatening way) and in so doing, driving viewership to heights not seen in over a decade. Elsewhere in the world of Major League Baseball, player agent Casey Close and his agency Excel Sports Management have dialed up the temperature on radio host Doug Gottlieb, alleging Gottlieb defamed them in reporting via tweet that Close withheld information from (now) Los Angeles Dodgers star Freddie Freeman in his contract negotiations with his former team, the Atlanta Braves. Certainly, for the Yankees’ competition’s, Gottlieb’s and the world’s sake, a cooling off would be welcome. But none of which seem all that likely at this point in time. The intense, yet witty heat of a "Spotlight" probably won’t help either, but here goes…

    • Celebrities’ latest bread and butter investment play seems to be homed-in on the restaurant industry, which begs the question: what do they do with their rotten tomatoes?
    • Texas Tech University’s NIL collective announced it will provide $25K to each of 100 football players. That’s just about the best participation trophy I could dream of.
    • Rapper Cardi B is being called to testify in a trial related to sexually suggestive cover art for one of her mixtapes, for which she allegedly photoshopped the plaintiff’s distinctive tattoo onto someone else’s body. The testimony is sure to generate ink of its own.
    • Coinbase seems to be banking on a "Groundhog Day"-like reset for its NFT Marketplace, with the help of beloved actor and comedian (and not someone you would think of when it comes to NFTs) Bill Murray, with new “drops.” If all else fails, Coinbase will have someone to handle their ghosts and gophers.

Welcome back to the "Spotlight," where no receipt is required for your return. By contrast, Elon Musk will need to show a little more than a receipt to get out of his $44 billion deal to acquire Twitter. That sure puts in perspective, well pretty much all cases of buyer’s remorse that I have experienced in my day. In Hollywood, there’s certainly no buyer’s remorse to be had for Apple+, whose European football comedy series “Ted Lasso” tallied twenty Emmy Award nominations, matching last year’s total. Time (and an arbitrator in the NFL’s disciplinary hearings) will soon tell, though, how much regret the other football’s Cleveland Browns may have in giving Quarterback Deshaun Watson a fully-guaranteed $230 million contract this offseason notwithstanding scores of sexual assault accusations. My hope and promise is that you will never rue a visit to the "Spotlight," including this one below.

    • The stadium naming rights for the Pittsburgh Steelers are no longer held by condiment mavens Heinz, as those rights now belong to Acrisure insurance company. Though that news might leave French fry-loving fans with a bad taste, the Steelers can quickly make amends by offering spilled beer insurance—no deductible.
    • The company behind Bang energy drinks was found to have infringed Universal Music Group’s copyrights by including snippets of songs in TikTok advertisements for the brand. For its part, Bang maintains that it thought that TikTok’s non-commercial blanket licenses from Universal Music Group allowed for commercial use of the songs. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s a pretty important detail one might think you would be able to spot while hopped-up on enough caffeine to give your jitters the jitters.
    • Keeping up with the times U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and The U.S. Copyright Office announced that they are undertaking studies to better understand the interplay of NFT’s and intellectual property rights. Meanwhile, an untold number of people are undertaking studies to better understand, “What’s an NFT”?

Welcome back to the "Spotlight," and as a University of Wisconsin alum, allow me to be among the first to welcome the USC Trojans and UCLA Bruins to the preposterously named Big Ten conference (it hasn’t had 10 member universities since the first Gulf War) in what appears to be part of a massive realignment in college athletics, wrought in part by the weakening of the NCAA. From the USC and UCLA perspective, the move makes a lot of (dollars and) sense. These schools will not only have greater exposure through the Central and Eastern time zones, allowing them to cast a wider net for recruiting, but they will also stand to be the beneficiaries of a Big Ten media rights pot that could approach $1 billion. From my perspective, I love the idea of having visiting football players accustomed to the cushy climate of Southern California visiting my Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium in subzero temperatures (On, Wisconsin!). What could it mean more broadly for college athletics? it appears more and more as if the “powerhouse” schools in college athletics are coming together in two or three self-sufficient mega conferences, pushing the floundering NCAA further out of the spotlight. More on that as the situation unfolds, but until then, take a gander on what’s in the "Spotlight."

    • Songwriters notch a big win against music streaming services as the Copyright Royalty Board’s decision to increase streaming royalties from 10.5 percent and 15.1 percent was upheld. Seems fair, given that multi-streaming services make disproportionate profits from the use of the songwriters’ works. But don’t worry about the multi-billion dollar streaming services, they will be fine (and presumably pass the additional costs onto consumers). “Inflation,” am I right?!?! 
    • With the planet under constant strain (in the environmental sense and so many other ways), celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga and Nicole Kidman are increasingly looking to launch sustainably focused, plant-based brands. And as it turns out, the phrase “vegan beauty” does not refer to the application of lipstick and mascara to a block of tofu.
    • Snoop Dogg, who has been an early adopter of NFTs, cryptocurrency and all things the metaverse can be for the entertainment industry, views the recent crypto plunge as a healthy development that “weeded out the bad apples.” Seems credible since if there’s one thing Snoop knows about, it’s getting weeded out.

Welcome back to the "Spotlight!" With the Fourth of July just around the corner here in the States, Americans can set aside their many differences (one of the few Judges that did anything that I can applaud this past month presides over 161st Street in the Bronx) and celebrate a holiday on which we “dissolve[d] the political bands which have connected them with another” and declared independence from a tyrannical, autocratic ruler. But with the dark shadows of autocracy remaining in our midst (if not outright supported by many) today and our current political bands fraying, perhaps our lowest common denominator for common ground is wholesome entertainment and (sports?) competition. For that, look no further than the gluttonous spectacle that is the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on Coney Island. If the tradition of watching people (elbow-to-elbow in scorching, soup-like conditions) scarfing down in one sitting more tubed beef and soggy rolls than many have had in their lifetimes does not foster a common sense of patriotism (and nausea even more so for the vegans and Celiac sufferers among us) and galvanize our esprit de cor(-onary artery disease), I don’t know what does. So, take that, Britain! Without further fanfare, one truth I hold to be self-evident is that this week’s "Spotlight" is below:

    • Comedian Kevin Hart is not joking around with his new, entirely plant-based fast-food concept restaurant, “Hart House.” With the first location opening in Los Angeles, perhaps it is ripe for a partnership with a different kind of plant-based establishment.
    • Tomorrow marks one year since “NIL Day” in college sports – a financial Independence Day of sorts – that has allowed athletes even from smaller colleges to monetize their name, image and likeness. Rayquan Smith of Norfolk State University is a prime example.
    • House music pioneer Marshall Jefferson’s publishing company sues Kanye ‘Ye’ West and creator of the Stem Player device on which West’s latest album “DONDA 2” was exclusively distributed, alleging copyright infringement over unauthorized sampling of Jefferson’s work, “Move Your Body.” One wonders whether West would be in the same predicament had the song been named, “Clear Your Samples.”

Welcome back to the "Spotlight" – this being the very first and certainly not the last of Summer 2022.  That’s right, folks. Although I expect my readership numbers to swoon to “spouse-and-blood-relative” levels, I will still be the proverbial tree falling in the forest as I churn out the content on the off chance that there will be eyeballs to read it. Although the weather has been unseasonably cool here on the East Coast, temperatures seem to be reaching a metaphorical boiling point for the Washington Commanders’ owner Dan Snyder, as he appears poised to be subpoenaed by the House Oversight Committee investigating allegations of rampant workplace misconduct within the Commanders’ organization and a subsequent sham investigation seemingly accepted by the NFL. Should Snyder comply with the subpoena, he will do so on the heels of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell having been grilled yesterday. And if Goodell’s experience is any indication of how intense it could get for Snyder, he better lather up in SPF 100 to withstand the Congressional spotlight. For you all, a kinder, more jovial "Spotlight" follows:    

    • No amount of glowing skin could shield Hailey Bieber’s skincare company Rhode (also Bieber’s middle name) from being haled into court to answer trademark infringement claims by an established fashion brand of the same name (Rhode). Of course, who could forget trademark specialist William Shakespeare’s time-honored words, “a Rhode by any other name would sound as sweet”?

    • Perhaps clearing the way for greater acceptance of cannabis-derived products, Major League Baseball became the first major sports league to allow teams to enter into sponsorship deals with cannabidiol (CBD) companies, provided that the companies’ products are certified by the NSF International as not containing detectable levels of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Translation: OMG the MLB said OK to CBD.

    • South Korean entertainment company and creators of “Baby Shark,” Pinkfong, launches a new NFT project based on (what else?) "Baby Shark." Apologies to those of you whose memories of listening to that song on repeat were just dredged up.   

Welcome back to the "Spotlight!" In the spotlight this past week in Washington, D.C. (and beyond) was the beginning of the House of Representatives’ Select Committee’s public hearings regarding the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. As the Committee laid bare their evidence and findings regarding the events leading up to and around January 6th,  others on the Beltway sought to minimize or whitewash the reality of what took place — including Washington Commanders Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio. Indeed, Del Rio apparently took a break from the defensive to be downright offensive in his assessment of the January 6th insurrection as a mere “dust up” in comparison to the protests that took place in the wake of the George Floyd’s murder. Del Rio was subsequently reprimanded and fined $100,000 by Washington Commanders head coach, Ron Rivera on grounds that it constituted a distraction for the football team. For those bemoaning the fine for Del Rio exercising his First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, you don’t need to be a Constitutional Law scholar to know that nothing prohibits a private, non-state actor such as the Commanders from punishing the speech of another private individual. Indeed, this is done all the time in contracts through the inclusion of a so-called “morals clause” that allows a party to terminate the other party for bringing the terminating party into disrepute.  In that regard, while Del Rio is certainly entitled to his opinion (however wrong it may be) or he may count himself fortunate not to have been sent up the rio. Of course, the Commanders have not exactly set the “public disrepute” bar high – on or off the field.  In any event, let this be a reminder to pay attention to morals provisions in agreements for services, lest you find yourself in an unflattering spotlight. Speaking of…I will do my best to flatter your minds with this week’s "Spotlight." …  

    • Betting that the success of "Ted Lasso" may fuel increased viewership of soccer, Apple inks a 10-year partnership with Major League Soccer. A savvy move reminiscent of when C-SPAN forged its partnership with the Competitive Sleeping League.  
    • Diminutive Comedian Kevin Hart’s media company forges an administration/publishing deal with Warner-Chappell for the company’s musical compositions. Joke’s on Warner-Chappell, though – all the songs are super short.
    • Although the air has been quickly escaping the cryptocurrency and NFT market, unsettling many investors, that has not deterred celebrities such as Anthony Hopkins from jumping aboard the bandwagon. Maybe there’s no reason to panic. After all, who could think of a better person to put people’s minds at ease than the man who is famous for having played…(checks notes)…Hannibal Lecter (gulp).

Welcome back to the "Spotlight!" This may come as a shock to exactly none of you, but people can be really good as casting aside morality in the face of heaps of money. That statement came into sharp focus this week with the news of prominent professional golfers bolting the PGA Tour to join the Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund-backed LIV Golf professional tour. If you’re like me, your first thought is that “LIV” seems like a poor name for an organization backed by a government that orchestrated the brutal assassination of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 or that held mass executions of 81 men after holding kangaroo court proceedings this past March — but, alas “LIV” is the Roman numeral for “54.”  Perhaps it was the kangaroo aspect that attracted Greg Norman to the opportunity of becoming LIV Golf’s C.E.O. (it’s funny because he’s Australian). For professional golfers such as Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, it was almost certainly the money that lured them — $150 million and $200 million, respectively. This of course coming several months after Mickelson was rather colorfully critical of the idea of joining LIV Golf due to its Saudi ties and the attendant association with human rights violations (call it a “moral mulligan,” I guess). To his credit, Tiger Woods was reportedly offered a deal with LIV Golf in the “high nine figures,” but he has (so far) admirably declined, shying away from the shiny prize in the negative spotlight.  For those of you craving a positive "Spotlight," look no further:

    • After having dangled the prospect of his retirement in the absence of a mega contract, Los Angeles Rams pass rusher Aaron Donald restructured his deal such that he will make $95 million by the 2024 NFL season. For any of my superiors reading this, have I mentioned that I’m considering taking up shuffleboard and mahjong on a full-time basis…?
    • Walmart heir Rob Walton, his daughter and son-in-law appear poised to close a $4.65 billion purchase of the Denver Broncos football team — the biggest team purchase in North American sports history. They may count themselves as fortunate, but the really lucky one is going to be whomever Walton subsequently sells the team to at the everyday low price of $24.95.
    • Count Mariah Carey as the latest recording artist to be hit with a lawsuit alleging copyright infringement by a mega-hit song — specifically, Carey’s 1994 perennial holiday favorite “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Which begs the question: at what point in the past 28 years did the plaintiff hear the song and decide: “hey, that’s mine!”    
    • Todd and Julie Chrisley, stars of the reality television series, "Chrisley Knows Best" face up to 30 years in prison having been found guilty of bank fraud and tax evasion. For media companies looking to air/make available re-runs of the show, might I suggest renaming the series: "Chrisley Should Have Known Better."

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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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