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Posts from June 2022.

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."

Welcome back to the "Spotlight!" Perhaps you hadn’t heard, or you avoid news that lacks dep-th, but the verdict in the weeks-long, voyeuristically-watched Amber Heard/Johnny Depp defamation trial was announced yesterday, with Depp “prevailing” over Heard. The real winners? The seven members of the jury and the rest of us. The former will forever have, at worst, excellent cocktail party stories, if not prime time interviews and book deals. The latter will no longer have to hear about the Amber Heard/Johnny Depp defamation trial. Those of you holding out hope for an appeal? You, like Mr. Depp, should know (::cough, cough:: "Pirates of the Caribbean") that the sequel is seldom as entertaining as the original. One notable exception to that rule?: (maybe…? hopefully…? Probably not, but just go with it…) the "Spotlight."

    • "Top Gun: Maverick" appears to be another sequel holding its own, but I credit the box office success to the main characters’ familiarity and relatability to audiences used to wearing masks on a plane.
    • The man who stood out like a sore thumb at this year’s Masters golf tournament for appearing with a beer, but no phone amidst a crowd of spectators capturing the awe of a Tiger Woods tee shot on their smartphones may not have walked away with a homemade photo/video of Woods, but he did walk away with an endorsement/merchandise deal from Michelob. That’s enough to make me want to put my phone away.
    • No one will be crying Justin Timberlake a river, and that sunshine in his pocket better scooch over, as he becomes the latest songwriter to make a $100 million windfall from the sale of his song catalog.
    • The FTC’s latest crackdown on TikTok influencers highlights another way in which college athletes looking to profit from their NIL need to CYA. 

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