Welcome back or for the very first time (what took you so long?) to the “Sports & Entertainment Spotlight”! As the torch is extinguished on, by most metrics (television ratings, in particular) a fairly underwhelming Olympic games, we turn our attention (limited as it may have been) from the five Olympic rings to the three rings (of the big top tent variety) that never seem far behind Kanye “Ye” West. Specifically, this past week, Ye announced that his highly anticipated album, “DONDA 2” would be released exclusively on his brand new $200 platform called “Stem Player” – not on streaming platforms. Now, a few things interest me about this development (none of which being: Who did/did not make the album; whether a certain reality television star and/or a certain Saturday Night Live cast member were referenced in the album; why the album release date was not met; why the audio at the livestreamed release party left much to be desired; or that the Stem Player looks like an Aspirin-Mentos lovechild (the pacemaker freshmaker?). First, as has been widely observed, is that this a shrewd marketing strategy that could serve as a model for future music releases – Ye grossed $1.3 million in revenue within just a few hours of his announcement. Of course, $200 is a lot to pay for an album, but the value proposition in the Stem Player is not just that its users gain access to the album, but also that the Stem Player allows the users to manipulate and record the so-called “stems” or component parts of a recording (e.g., drums, vocals, bass, samples) to create entirely new remixes. Given rumors of Ye having turned down a $100 million Apple distribution deal for the album, clearly there is conviction about the technology’s prospects. But putting on my lawyer hat, methinks the Stem Player could create a potential morass of copyright issues, for example, from users’ performance or distribution of remixes of others’ recordings. Any lawsuits related to the Stem Player platform could certainly hurt the bottom line, but I suppose that is mere speculation for now. Either way, I will keep tabs on the Stem Player and Ye so you don’t have to (you’re welcome). For now, I bring you this week’s highlights, for which no purchase is necessary:
- The United States Women’s National Team settled their equal pay lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation to the tune of $24 million and a commitment to equalize pay with the Men’s National Team. Your move, [insert your preferred organization with discriminatory pay practices].
- Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, himself in of a lawsuit regarding discrimination and the application of the Rooney Rule, lands an assistant coaching job with the Pittsburgh Steelers, incidentally owned by… (check notes)…Rooney.
- Eight months into the name, image and likeness (NIL) era in college sports, the Division I Board of Governors is convening a review of the effects of NIL deals amongst other things, student-athletes’ mental health as part of its efforts to formulate a lasting NIL policy. The Spotlight has exclusively obtained an unofficial draft of the report reproduced here: .
Welcome back to another installment of the “Sports & Entertainment Spotlight”! Where better to start this week than with last Sunday’s Super Bowl that lived up to its name on all fronts? Sure, the commercials were witty, innovative and at times downright strange as usual, but the football game and halftime show (and let’s not forget my homemade guacamole) were outstanding. The TV ratings are a testament to that as myself and 112 million of my closest friends (for context, roughly the readership of the Spotlight, give or take 112 million) watched the hometown Los Angeles Rams’ Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald make big plays when they mattered the most to claim the Lombardi Trophy. Equally enjoyable for me was seeing/hearing – due to in no small part to Jay-Z/Roc Nation’s entertainment partnership with the NFL –hip-hop, rap and R&B take centerstage musical performances from the all-star collection of talent that included Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and Mary J. Blige for what was as much an homage to Southern California as it was to the respective genres. To me, the only thing missing was an appearance by the late Tupac Shakur. Fittingly, the performance just so happened to take place on the same weekend on which Snoop Dogg released his new album B.O.D.R. (Back on Death Row) on his newly-acquired record label, Death Row Records – the very same label that launched his, Dr. Dre’s and Tupac’s careers. Although things may have appeared to come full circle for Snoop, having full-heartedly embraced NFTs, he’s also taking a big leap forward with his stated intention to make Death Row a record label for the metaverse. In short, Sunday was a “Sports & Entertainment Spotlight” unto itself – but lest you worry, I have more to last you through next week:
- Not to be outdone by Snoop, DJ Steve Aoki proclaims that he’s made more money from music NFTs than he has in his entire recording career. Financially, you could say he’s doing, “A-ok.”
- 15-year-old Russian Olympic Committee figure skater Kamila Valieva is becoming a household name for all the wrong reasons, somehow finding herself back on Olympic ice despite having tested positive for banned performance-enhancing substances. For her part, Valieva says that the positive test arose from accidental contamination with her grandfather’s medication. Programming note to tune in to watch Valieva’s grandfather compete in this year’s Senior Olympics – think: curling, but instead of sending away curling stones, they grumpily use bowls of soup that are always too cold.
- Actor Stanley Tucci inks a multiyear endorsement deal with Italian sparkling mineral water company, San Pellegrino, in which bottles will be branded “Stan Pellegrino.” An infinitely better proposition than a diaper rash ointment deal pitched to him for “Tucci Cream.”
Welcome back, and in case you’ve been living under a rock (unless it’s a "30 Rock"), two of the biggest sporting events will command millions upon millions of eyeballs for NBC this weekend with the Winter Olympics (already in full swing in Beijing) and the National Football League’s (NFL) Super Bowl LVI due to kick-off on Sunday between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams (and Madison Avenue Agencies). However, at least for the time being, both Olympic and NFL news have largely been focused on matters taking place “outside the lines.” At the Olympics, a medal ceremony in figure skating was postponed for legal reasons – namely a member of the purported gold-medal winning Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team having a suspected positive doping test. Already on thin ice for widespread doping violations, one wonders whether ROC is once again up to its old tricks or whether this is an isolated incident by one triple (k)lutz. Or perhaps, whether the figure skating team will be heralded as mettlesome or admonished as medal-less. In the NFL, former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores’ lawsuit alleging discriminatory hiring practices remains a hot button topic. Just this past week, we learned of Commissioner Roger Goodell voicing displeasure with the NFL’s lack of diversity in coaching and front office positions, while two of the NFL’s co-defendant teams, the Miami Dolphins and Houston Texans hired minority coaches Mike McDaniel and Lovie Smith, respectively. Meanwhile, media mogul Byron Allen is rumored to be preparing a bid to buy the Denver Broncos (another co-defendant), and in so doing, make the Broncos the first Black-owned NFL team. While those moves – calculated or not – may undermine Flores’ case, in just two weeks, Flores’ taking a stand has seemingly sparked soul-searching, for which Flores should be commended. From Olympic torches and stadium lights, let’s jump into the "Spotlight."
- How many comedians does it take to have streaming services pay joke-writing royalties just as they do songwriting royalties? With the Estates of George Carlin and Robin Williams, together with a handful of living court jesters suing Pandora, we may yet find out.
- Mega singer-songwriter, Sia joins forces with a plant-based pet food company on a mission to tell traditional meat-based pet foods, “see ya.”
- Although Amazon is far from an incumbent in the sports broadcasting space, in Al Michaels, they may be bringing aboard an industry veteran to handle its Thursday Night Football broadcasts. Waiting in the wings if Michaels doesn’t get the gig? Al-exa.
- A digital plot of land in the metaverse neighboring Snoop Dogg’s sold for the low price of $450,000. Fitting that with respect to the metaverse, what some view as an investment, others see as money going “up in smoke.”
Welcome back to the Spotlight and oh-me, oh-my, do we have a full slate of developments in the National Football League (NFL) – and that’s to say nothing of what happened on the field, with the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams battling their way into Super Bowl LVI. First, seven-time Super Bowl champion (and two-time Super Bowl runner-up to my New York Football Giants) quarterback Tom Brady was reported to have retired, several days before his official announcement and the vesting of his $15 million signing bonus. While he could well afford to have done so, the all-time great was not about to leave that money on the table. A few days later, the Washington Football Team (formerly known as the Washington Red…actions) debut their new name and branding as the Washington Commanders, and at least so far, appear to have avoided the same plight that the Cleveland Guardians baseball team met when changing their name several months ago. Kudos to the Commanders’ trademark attorneys there. But overshadowing all of that was former Miami Dolphins’ head coach, Brian Flores, a Black man, filing a potential landmark lawsuit for himself and an uncertified class action against the NFL and several named member clubs (unfortunately including the aforementioned New York Football Giants) alleging, amongst other things, pervasive racial discrimination in the NFL’s hiring process – in spite of the NFL’s “Rooney Rule,” requiring teams to conduct interviews with minority coaching candidates. Time will tell how this case will shake out, what other details will be revealed (already we’ve learned about alleged payments to coaches for losing football games in an effort to improve NFL draft position,) and how much Flores will be able to bring about lasting change through this lawsuit. Rest assured, the “Spotlight” has you covered – but until then, check out what else is on tap this week:
- Former NBA Player J.R. Smith, who made headlines last year after retiring from basketball to enroll in, and play golf competitively at North Carolina A&T, signs with a sports agency to position himself for name, image and likeness opportunities, becoming the first former professional athlete to enter into such a deal. Whoever said it’s too late to relive your glory days?
- Justin Bieber became the latest entertainer to buy a Bored Ape NFT, laying out an astonishing $1.29 million (500 Ethereum tokens). Far be it from me to question the behind the scenes deal making, but shouldn’t the Apes be paying for the entertainers on account of being bored?
- The Joe Rogan - Neil Young et al. Spotify kerfuffle continues for a second week with more artists demanding that their music be pulled from the streaming platform over COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. We will see whether Spotify remains immune from loss of content.
With the Super Bowl coming up, it is important for brands looking to capitalize on football-themed promotions to remember that the terms “Super Bowl” and “Super Sunday” are registered trademarks guarded by the National Football League (NFL) more closely than a shutdown corner on a wide receiver.
Because there is a fine line between permissible fair uses of Super Bowl and Super Sunday (e.g., in on-air banter and news and sports reports) and impermissible promotional uses that may infringe the NFL’s trademark, here are some guidelines to keep you from going “offsides:”
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.