Welcome back to the “Spotlight” and to the best season, Autumn (nine out of 10 dentists agree). The Sun is setting earlier and the mercury in our thermometers is falling. Ironically, majority owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury franchises, Robert Sarver appears to be in the midst of a sunset and falling of his own. Indeed, one week after being smacked down with a $10 million dollar fine and one year ban on NBA and WNBA activities after an independent investigation revealed a systemic pattern of sexual harassment and racially-charged language in the Suns and Mercury front office, Sarver appears to be succumbing to public pressure to do what many believe should have been forced upon him by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver: sell the franchises. Whether the impetus for this action was some sort of intervention by fellow owners, Sarver’s coming to grips with his conscience, or maybe even the realization that sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace is…not great for business, the decision to sell the teams is shocking, but not surprising. Most perplexing, however, is how and why this history—not unique to the world of sports—keeps repeating itself. As it is said, pride comes before the fall, just as wordplay comes before (and during) the “Spotlight:”
- Cashback rebate company Ibotta re-ups its jersey sponsorship deal with the New Orleans Pelicans. Too bad Abbott and Costello aren’t around to do an “Ibotta jersey” routine.
- Kanye “Ye” West terminates his YEEZY Gap partnership deal with Gap, Inc. that was supposed to have been a long-term fruitful partnership for the pair. Sounds like the perfect opening for a Gap x Pete Davidson deal.
- Originally a star of the 2000s, Christina Aguilera is keeping up with the times by filing for NFT and metaverse-oriented trademarks. The applications are likely to withstand U.S. Patent and Trademark Office scrutiny, on account of they are beautiful in every single way, and words cannot bring them down.
Welcome back to the "Spotlight!" One of the many peculiarities of the English language is the phrase, “family business.” The phrase can refer to a business that is owned and/or operated by several family members. It can also refer to private matters generally dealt with amongst family members. More recently, in the sports world, “family” and “business” seem to have been colliding. A few weeks ago, NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal’s brand management firm, Authentic Brands Group, opposed a trademark application by his son, Shaqir O’Neal’s representatives on the grounds that a trademark for Shaqir O’Neal would cause a likelihood of confusion with the elder O’Neal’s trademark for “Shaquille O’Neal.” This of course fits with Shaquille’s championing a work ethic to his children—“we ain’t rich, I’m rich.” For the famous parents out there, if it was not hard enough to agree with one’s partner on a baby son or daughter’s name, it seems you might also be wise to involve a trademark attorney in those discussions. Not to be outdone, after encountering difficulty obtaining a trademark registration for his name, NBA star Luka Doncic is embroiled in a dispute with his mother over her continued ownership of the registration for the trademark LUKA DONCIC7 (which was cited by the United States Patent and Trademark Office as grounds for its registration refusal). The rub is that the trademark, LUKA DONCIC7 was previously obtained with Doncic’s consent. Doncic is seeking to revoke that consent and to argue that the registration should be cancelled both on those grounds and due to non-use. Peering into my crystal ball, the most likely winners in these sagas will be lawyers…and therapists. I guess such is life when your family business gets aired in the "Spotlight."
- Jack Daniel’s and McLaren Racing toast to an F1 sponsorship deal, because nothing goes together better than Tennessee whiskey and driving at 200 miles per hour.
- Major League Soccer club Real Salt Lake City inks a stadium naming rights deal with America First Credit Union, rebranding the Utah stadium, “America First Field” to the tune of about $100 million. With that money, the Club will be able to erect a wall around the borders of the field.
- With a trademark filing for NFT-backed music, Sony Music Entertainment looks poised to separate itself from the pack and find new ways to separate consumers from their money with a pivot towards Web3 and the Metaverse.
Welcome back to a pumpkin spice flavored edition of the "Spotlight." With the summer coming to an unofficial end, it’s time to put away your white clothing, dust off your flannels and settle into the crisp, cozy season that is autumn. And that can mean only one thing: football is back. And the powers that be are banking on yours, mine and hundreds of millions of others’ eyeballs taking in games on Saturdays and Sundays…and Mondays. And Thursdays. Oh, and sometimes on Fridays. After all, what else could explain the billions of dollars spent by major television networks to secure media rights for televising college football and National Football League games, and advertisers buying millions of dollars of airtime for a Superbowl spotlight.
- With the help of high-profile placements during the NFL season, sports drink brand Gatorade is rolling out a new sugar-free, caffeine-packed energy drink called “Fast Twitch,” which is incidentally exactly what you’ll be doing if you drink too many.
- NBA Superstar Steph Curry makes a splash in publishing, hoping to fill shopping baskets as ably as he does arena baskets.
- The Estates of two music icons – David Bowie and Elvis Presley appear poised to take their legacies to the blockchain with a series of NFT projects. Or at least, I think it’s Elvis.
Welcome back to the "Spotlight!" After over two and a half years, COVID-19 has finally made its way past my doorstep and throughout my home. It’s Wednesday night and I am physically and emotionally drained, I feel like I swallowed a mace and I sound like Barry White, so I will be brief. That, and I’m watching Serena in her Center Court Spotlight.
- A non-fungible token (NFT) entitling the bearer to a beer with Bill Murray fetched the equivalent of $185,000 in Ethereum cryptocurrency for charity. At that price point for a beer, you would expect to also see a Yankees game.
- Grocery delivery company Instacart makes a splish-splash with an ad campaign featuring recording artist Lizzo in a bathtub, creating her own plant-based shopping cart. This being the first high-profile celebrity endorsement, I guess Instacart figured that it was “About Damn Time.”
- Pink Floyd’s song catalog is up for bidding at approximately $500 million. A gargantuan sum, that is, of course unless you play it backwards.
Welcome back to the "Spotlight!" As some of you may have noticed, smartphones are everywhere. They have the power to entertain insomniac authors (who shall remain nameless) suffering from writer’s block. They have the power to bring the eyes of the whole world (or close to it), to the vantage point of the person holding the device with a few taps of the finger. The results of that capability have been mixed. They have exposed injustice and sparked global movements for change (the George Floyd murder being a prime example). They have captured humorous and bizarre moments — this week, an unsuspecting spectator at a Yankees-Mets Subway Series game (that the Yankees swept, by the way) showed millions that a hot dog could be hollowed out and used as a straw for drinking beer. But they have also been used for nefarious and callous purposes – including by law enforcement officials in Los Angeles to share photos of Kobe Bryant’s and other victims’ corpses in the rubble of a tragic January 26, 2020 helicopter crash that killed all passengers on board. Yesterday, ironically on Kobe Bryant Day (8/24), a Los Angeles jury awarded $31 million in damages for violation of the right to privacy and infliction of emotional distress to the victims’ families (including Bryant’s), as if to send a message to all smartphone users that such behavior should not be tolerated. The subjects of their videos and photos are people with families and dignities that take precedent over sharing tasteless photos to impress drinking buddies. So the next time you raise your smartphone to record or photograph, think about your motivations for doing so, and that the people in front of the lens are just that. People with families and dignities who may deserve not to have that content in the Spotlight.
- Earlier this summer, Capitol Records made headlines by signing virtual recording artist, “FN Meka” to its label. Now, Capitol Records is making headlines for terminating the FN Meka project due to blowback at the racially-charged stereotypes that FN Meka embodied. Hopefully those at Sony Music Japan are taking notes on what not to do for its newly launched virtual talent development and management project. The lesson?: Even virtual reality bytes.
- In an effort to engage a broader audience, while battling the competition from LIV Golf, the PGA Tour announced enhanced prizes, more star participation and most notably a partnership with Tiger Woods’ and Rory McIlroy’s TMRW Sports in the creation of the TGL golf league that will feature teams of players competing on a virtual golf course in front of a live audience. Time will tell whether this is the right approach for hitting the “green.”
- A new drama called “The Good Lawyer” is in development at ABC. These television show titles just keep getting more and more outlandish…
Welcome back to the "Spotlight." Hard to believe we’re over halfway through August and that football season and fall (my favorite) is right around the corner, but that is looking more and more like an attractive proposition with my Yankees swooning of late. Still, for the time being, off-field issues continue to carry the day. In the NFL, there is a possibility that accused serial sexual abuser Cleveland Browns Quarterback Deshaun Watson may learn his definitive fate before the NFL-appointed arbitrator has a chance to weigh-in. In college football, there is new talk that the College Football Playoff (CFP) system would break off from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and become its own organizing body of sorts for college football. And on my couch, there will be obsessive studying of “sleeper” players and breakout performers for my fantasy football draft. With any luck, I will be among the first chosen for your fantasy lawyer draft, leading you to the Spotlight.
- Snack company Rap Snacks finds itself in hot oil with Mattel over the use of the name “Barbie” in its Barbie-Que Honey Truffle potato chip collaboration with rapper Nicki Minaj. That sure throws a wrench (or curling iron) in a prospective Rap Snacks collaboration with A Tribe Called Quest for “Ken I dip it? tortilla chips.
- Apparel brand Nobull charges into high visibility sports marketing with its NFL combine sponsorship deal. Here’s hoping the sponsorship works, otherwise Nobull might find itself in the realm of professional rodeo sponsorship, resulting in some very confused, and badly maimed rodeo clowns.
- University of Nebraska Decoldest Crawford strikes cool a deal with (what else?) an HVAC company, pushing the merits of being the coldest.
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.
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.