Throughout the United States, people are eagerly preparing for this Memorial Day Weekend (MDW), which marks the unofficial start of summer (not to mention those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the country). If you listen closely, you can hear the clanging sound of people cleaning off their grills, the “glug” of bottles of sunscreen that are just slightly beyond their expiration date (March 2021 will still work, right?) and the palpable excitement of loved ones being able to safely spend time with one another (ideally on a beach) after a trying 18 months battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
In New York, this MDW also brings — rather fittingly — the effective date of legislation creating a postmortem right of publicity for New Yorkers. Following on the path charted by 25 other states including California, Tennessee and Indiana, with this new law, New York gives individuals and their estates the right to prevent unwanted or unauthorized commercial usage of one’s name, image and likeness for 40 years after death, while also creating significant monetization opportunities. Though I don’t think the New York legislature had this in mind, the law also has the effect of giving me vindication for the ‘B+’ I received from a law school professor (and outspoken opponent of a postmortem right of publicity in New York) on a paper in which I argued for the adoption of such legislation, merely because I did not persuade him otherwise.
Pivoting away from pettiness and back to my beach, here’s what I’m watching make waves this week:
As readers from last week will recall, we spent some time examining the notion of credibility. One week later, we’re witnessing what credibility (or lack thereof) hath wrought on our subjects. Bob Baffert? Banned from New York horseracing tracks (including the upcoming Belmont Stakes) and facing potential civil liability from bettors who claim that the horse that they had bet on should have won the race – not Baffert-trained and doping offender Medina Spirit. The weight of Elon Musk’s word in the cryptocurrency world? Apparently hugely significant as cryptocurrency markets have been in freefall mode since his latest comments about Bitcoin and Dogecoin. Mark Emmert and the NCAA? Predictably inert on the subject of name, image and likeness (NIL) laws, setting up July 1st as a looming question mark for whether and how college athletes will be able to reap the benefits of recently passed legislation in a handful of states, as a flurry of activity in the private sector seems to suggest that change is on the horizon – whether the NCAA likes it or not.
With the stage set, below is a sampling of the other stories I am highlighting this week:
The word of the week for this edition is “credibility.” In the courts of law and public opinion, credibility (or the quality of being trusted and believed in) is everything. Just ask famed Triple Crown horse trainer Bob Baffert, who is currently embroiled in a doping scandal over the 2021 Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit—the fifth horse of Baffert’s to test positive for banned substances this year. Baffert served up wide-ranging explanations/conspiracy theories/excuses for the infraction, blaming “cancel culture,” then cough syrup-urine-soaked hay and most recently—and perhaps most plausibly—a daily ointment administered to the horse. Probably should have led with the ointment.
The impact of credibility was also on full display when avowed cryptophile Elon Musk hosted last week’s Saturday Night Live, he pulled the rug out from under meme cryptocurrency, Dogecoin, referring to it as a “hustle”—robbing it of the credibility that he himself had lent it—only to prop it back up by stating his company Space X would accept Dogecoin payment for trips to space.
The theme of credibility finally brings us to NCAA President, Mark Emmert, who has dragged his feet for years in the efforts to enable college athletes to receive compensation for the use of their names, images and likenesses (NIL), to the point that many are suspect of his credibility. Then came news (featured below) that Emmert is asking the NCAA to move forward with plans to approve new NIL rules in advance of July 1, the date on which several states’ NIL legislation comes into effect. What those rules might look like is unclear, but Emmert, who just received a five-year extension to his tenure as NCAA President, appears to be on the precipice of either salvaging or irretrievably losing his credibility.
What else grabbed my attention this week? Glad you asked…
Hope is in the air (not to mention copious amounts of tree pollen) here in New York – and that’s to say nothing of the Knicks’ hardwood resurgence, the Giants’ highly-acclaimed moves in last week’s NFL Draft and the Yankees’ bats and pitching arms coming to life. Indeed, with hard-won gains from mass vaccinations and other public health measures, New York City—once the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic—is due to reopen and set the course to something resembling pre-pandemic life as restaurants, bars, comedy clubs, movie theatres, museums, stadiums and arenas return to full (albeit socially-distanced) capacity. We’ve come a long way and still have a ways to go, but there is much to look forward to.
(steps off soapbox)
With that, here’s what I am spotlighting this week:
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