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Week one of the NFL season is in the books, leaving many teams, players and fans (whether it be New York Giants fans such as myself bemoaning a Sunday night beat down at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, or Los Angeles Chargers fans frightened by the experience of sitting in the stands next to humanoid robots) trying to tear pages out. The week was also riddled with injuries—not all that surprising in the sport of football. However, New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ tearing his Achilles tendon was entirely unexpected particularly after an offseason of hype (chronicled on HBO’s “Hard Knocks”) and Super Bowl aspirations. Brands, sponsors and media companies who staked significant sums on the Jets bandwagon certainly got their money’s worth with the Jets and Buffalo Bills’ matchup on Monday Night Football earning the highest ratings for the program in history, but whether that value will hold over the course of the NFL season seems like a riskier proposition.  Going forward, it’s fair to wonder whether in negotiations, companies will be more attuned to the risk that a star player’s injury could end up squandering their investments. After all, Inter Miami Football (Soccer) Club without Messi is messy. And the Jets without Rodgers may well be stuck at the gate.

    • The two major pickleball leagues merge in a deal valued at $50 million, signaling yet again that pickleball is ready for brinetime.
       
    • Speaking of pickles, DJ Steve Aoki is the latest recording artist to wade into the fast food industry, joining forces with Burger King to create a “Whopper” track. When Aoki asked for creative control, Burger King said “have it your way.”
       
    • Tom Brady joins Delta Airlines as a strategic adviser for its workforce. Amongst Brady’s likely tips: have multiple retirement parties and whatever you do, don’t eat bread.
       

Welcome back to the Spotlight! I am just a few days removed from hand surgery, so on the one hand, I’d ask you to excuse my brevity. But on the other hand I’d sheepishly ask, hat in hand, for you to clap your hands for my shorthanded effort. Your handsome award for handling my handwringing puns?: this week’s installment will ensure your finger is on the pulse for the latest in Sports and Entertainment. 

    • On the heels of a statement upset by the Deion Sanders-coached University of Colorado football team over Texas Christian University, Colorado’s star players Shedeur Sanders (Deion’s son) and Travis Hunter saw their name, image and likeness valuations soar by a combined $5.3 million. Talk about a Rocky Mountain high!
       
    • Just as Universal Music Group and Deezer forge a pact on a royalty model that incentivizes popular human recording artists over those of artificial intelligence, AI music creator, Ghostwriter releases a fake Travis Scott track and Warner Music Group signs digital influencer Noonoouri to a record deal. To Noonoouri’s credit, “she” was gracious in thanking her ardent supporter, 001101011100.
       
    • Hedge fund billionaire and New York Mets owner Steve Cohen purchased a New York based team in Tiger Woods and Rory Mcilroy’s TGL Golf League. Because if there’s one thing the Mets know better than the baseball diamond, it’s the golf course. 
       

Welcome back to the Spotlight! As we approach Labor Day Weekend here in the US, I became curious as to the origins of the federal holiday.  Gather round, class – Mr. Bloomgarden has a history lesson to share. (Clears throat…) In 1894, President Grover Cleveland (my second favorite Grover to the blue Muppet and second favorite Cleveland to the city) signed into law a bill to make Labor Day a federal holiday to celebrate (traditionally via barbecues and parades) the contributions of American workers to the economy and society. Fast-forward some 129 years and—far from a celebration--we continue to have labor strikes by actors and writers that have ground new film and television production to a screeching halt. So, it is with rather conspicuous timing that five of the most prominent late night television hosts (Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers and John Oliver) have banded together to create a podcast “Strike Force Five” in solidarity with their respective writers’ rooms to comedically discuss (amongst other things) the strikes plaguing their industry. Commendably, the proceeds from the podcast will be distributed amongst each of the five talk shows’ writing staff to provide relief while the impasse continues.  Hopefully, one of the most courageous acts we see post-Labor Day (close runner-up to wearing white) is that the writers, actors, networks and studios return to their sides of the negotiating table to iron out deals once and for all. Regardless, it is refreshing to see the Strike Force Five using their outsized platforms to support their workers.

    • Brad Pitt’s Production Company Plan B Entertainment named a new President of Television – presumably because its first choice did not pan out.

    • The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) continues to make substantial investments in sports – most recently investing $100 million in the mixed martial arts league, Professional Fighters League – in its push to become a sports mecca.  I guess it is not enough to have the Mecca of meccas.

    • Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls are in talks to sell naming rights to its stadium from Red Bull Arena. If anyone in the marketing department at The Toro Company or at Matador Travel Equipment is reading this, you’re welcome.

    • Rapper Eminem puts the kibosh on Republican Primary candidate Vivek Ramaswany’s performance of his musical compositions at campaign events. Will be interesting to see if it is enough of a deterrent to one of his debate competitors saying, “nowadays Ramaswany wanna talk like he got somethin’ to say, but nothin’ comes out, when he moves his lips, just a bunch of gibberish…”

We here at the Spotlight are a family-oriented program committed to giving you sports and entertainment industry business and legal news and insights interspersed with dad jokes (though sometimes I wonder whether it is the other way around…). In any event, I feel it is important to address a story that blends familial (or maybe pseudo-familial) elements with the subject matter of the Spotlight. Nowhere is that more apparent than with that of news of the legal dispute between former NFL Offensive Tackle, Michael Oher and his (supposed/alleged) adoptive parents, Leigh Ann and Sean Tuohy.  Oher has filed an action to dissolve his conservatorship with the Tuohys, alleging that they had tricked Oher into signing conservatorship documents allowing the Tuohys to represent Oher’s business interests was the same as being adopted and concocted the (once) heart-warming story of a white Tennessee family adopting a black football player out of abject poverty that served the basis for the film, “The Blind Side” (for which Sandra Bullock won the Oscar for Best Actress in 2009), allegedly to enrich themselves at his expense. On the other hand, the Tuohys’ lawyer fired back with allegations that Oher had sought to extort $15 million from the family to prevent him from going public with his side of the story. The whole saga is troubling, because you tend to hope that neither side is true, though that would mean that the only ones being bamboozled are you and I. if there is a winner to emerge from the fray, it might well be Sandra Bullock, who might yet break her streak of awful sequels (i.e., Speed 2 and Miss Congeniality 2) with her being positioned to reprise her role of Leigh Ann Tuohy in the yet-to-be-created, The Blind Side 2: Blind Justice. That is, if Hollywood movies are ever made again.  Before we jump into the rest of this week’s Spotlight, a brief programming note that I will be on vacation with my family next week, so the Spotlight will be recharging in my absence.

  1. Fantasy Football guru, Matthew Berry raises $2 million for his startup fantasy sports media company, Fantasy Life. My fantasy football team can only hope to bring in a fraction of that amount this year.
     
  2. McDonald’s launches a collectible, but non-transferable Grimace NFT. Just another way for McDonald’s (and a grimace) to stay with you long after your meal.
     
  3. Just as Netflix renews its series, “The King of Collectibles” a Michael Jordan rookie card goes up for auction with a starting bid of $500,000. On that note, I am going to head out to go through my wife’s grandfather’s sports card collection gathering dust in my basement.

Welcome back to the Spotlight! While the tumbleweed continues to blow across studio lots in Hollywood as a result of the impasse with SAG-AFTRA and WGA, the sports world continues to experience kinetic, disruptive activity. In the college sports landscape, time honored college conferences such as the PAC-12 are crumbling like a dry shortbread cookie as their member schools reconsolidate (like wet shortbread cookie dough) around mega conferences such as the Big Ten that enjoy multibillion dollar TV rights deals. Where the chips fall from here—particularly in relation to the role (if any) of the NCAA—is anyone’s guess. Two things are for certain: 1) with at least sixteen (not ten) colleges, maybe it is now time to think of a rebrand for the Big Ten conference); and 2) with apologies to many of my Foster Garvey colleagues, the true UW in the Big Ten remains Wisconsin (not University of Washington, despite its impending move to the Big Ten). Additionally, through a tie-up with Penn Entertainment, ESPN finally jumps into the sports gaming business. Now ESPN, whose parent company Disney is famous for the letters M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E, can add three more letters to its portfolio: B-E-T. As part of the deal, Penn Entertainment is paying Disney approximately 2X its market capitalization. Regardless of whether this turns out to be a moneymaking bet for Penn or Disney, rest assured your odds to make money are slimmer than—well, an over-rolled shortbread cookie.

While I excuse myself for a snack, here are some other knowledge morsels on which to nibble:

    • Fan memorabilia company Fanatics and trading card company Panini America are in dueling lawsuits alleging unfair competition. To take on Panini, Fanatics’ legal strategy will undoubtedly involve a full court “press.”
       
    • YouTube personality MrBeast filed a lawsuit against Virtual Dining Concepts alleging that the food quality at the virtual kitchens created for his MrBeast Burger brand injured his reputation. The court will decide whether the suit is a fry in the sky or whether he has a legitimate beef.

    • Universal Music and Google are said to be in talks related to the development of an AI-generated music tool. Japanese users will be advised not to thank the AI so as not to inadvertently infringe Styx’s “Mr. Roboto.”

Welcome back to the Spotlight! The time that you invest in reading my weekly streams of consciousness newsletter/post is very much appreciated, and I hope that the little time investment yields a sizable return in one way or another.  By the same token, in the sports world nowadays, it has become a remarkable trend to see a who’s who of athletes, entertainers and other entrepreneurs putting “some” money into and appearing on the cap tables of  upstart sports leagues or teams with a low valuation to later reap the exponential returns that far exceed that which would be expected for an investment in an incumbent sports league/team. Case in point: the millions of dollars being poured into women’s athletics, pickleball, under-the-radar soccer clubs (Wrexham AFC), and even (in the latest investment round led by Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman’s 35 Ventures) the National Cycling League. Quite an exciting time to have capital to throw onto the fire in hopes of spinning straw into gold. And while I can’t guarantee that you’ll make money from reading this piece, I can guarantee that if you do make money from reading this piece, I may ask you for some—or at least a shoutout for an astute Rumpelstiltskin reference. So without further ado, let’s dive into what will enrich your mind, and maybe (but probably not) your bank account.

  1. Super Bowl LVIII will have a slime-filled alternate telecast this year (a slime-ulcast, if you will). Viewers are encouraged to confirm that their dip is in fact guacamole.
     
  2. A disturbing trend in this summer’s concert scene has been showgoers throwing objects at performers.  Bronx native Cardi B struck back, tossing her microphone at a member of the audience. The good news for Cardi was that she was cleared of wrongdoing as a battery charge against her was dropped. Even better news is that she received a 10 day minor league contract from the Yankees – they need all the help they can get.
     
  3. A new bill designed to revamp the college sports landscape, by, amongst other things, creating a federal standard for name, image and likeness (NIL) was proposed by Texas Senator Ted Cruz. As compared to the other bills floating around Congress, the bill’s biggest downside is that it was proposed by Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
     
  4. With a new naming rights deal struck with Mountain America Credit Union, Arizona State University’s Stadium is no longer known as “Sun Devil Stadium.” Unfortunately, that will have no effect on the temperature.

Welcome back to the Spotlight! It has been quite a week for soccer (not football) in the United States. Lionel Messi’s first two appearances in Inter Miami’s flamingo pink jerseys (Barbie would be thrilled) have already proven his move stateside to Major League Soccer less messy and more messianic. First, he netted the game winner in his debut. Then in the next game he scored 2 outstanding goals in the first twenty minutes. A remarkable feat from someone who knows how to use his feet. If this sounded like a beginning too good to be true, and persuaded you to reach for your tin foil hat, watch the highlights. No smoke, no mirrors – just unparalleled talent.

Clearly, the MLS has to feel good about the new audience and excitement that Messi is bringing into the fold – creating a perfect runway for the US-hosted FIFA Men’s World Cup in several years. On the Women’s side, where the World Cup is in full swing, the United States Women’s National Team is back to their winning ways (outperforming their male counterparts as per usual).  On the other side of the globe, Saudi Arabia has proven itself keen to invest in sports, not only through its backing of LIV Golf, but through offering absurd sums of money (by the barrel?) to decorated soccer players including Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappe – the latter of whom rebuffed an offer to play in Saudi Arabia for one year for the record setting, bargain basement price of $700 million. Though Mbappe is likely to continue playing in Europe, there is much reason to view soccer as ascendant throughout the world – but perhaps most significantly now in the US. Time will tell whether it is sustainable, but certainly the MLS should be able to use Messi as an anchor to attract more stars for years to come.

    • Two dueling bipartisan proposals addressing college athletes’ rights were unveiled in Congress this week, including a proposal by Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Tommy Tuberville to help “restore integrity” to college sports.  What’s notable about that bill is not as much that it is introduced by a former college football coach (Tuberville), but rather Congress’ charge to restore integrity.
       
    • Formula One racing is threatening to erect barriers blocking the view of the Las Vegas Grand Prix from properties located on the Vegas Strip. Sounds like the all-you-can-eat buffets are back to being the best deal in town.
       
    • Dwayne Johnson makes a seven figure donation to the SAG-AFTRA Strike Relief Fund, proving himself to be The Rock for his fellow actors. What can he say except, “you’re welcome”?

    • Actors such as Bryan Cranston and James Van Der Beek are delivering impassioned messages about the threat of artificial intelligence to actors’ livelihoods – a key motivating factor for the strike. Van Der Beek’s message boils down (Cranston fans know to keep their distance when something is boiling down) to “I don’t want to wait for our rights to be over.”

Welcome back to the Spotlight! If you’re like me, you were probably hoping that the twin strikes in Hollywood (WGA and SAG-AFTRA) may have been at least incrementally closer to coming to an end.  But to no avail, neither the motion picture and television studios nor the actors or writers seem to be blinking.  As such, the lights remain out on film and TV sets across the country.  Heralding a potentially perilous time for the entertainment industry—particularly if the strikes drag on for several more months.  After all, though that streaming queue of yours may seem daunting now, you are just a few break-ups, sick days and lazy Sundays away from being forced to read a book, or worse, having to get off your couch and actually interact with other people. For now, we can take comfort in the fact that the sports world is largely unaffected by the work stoppage (except for Yankees fans like myself who would rather watch paint dry than tune in to a game), making for a pretty nice hedge for actors and Wrexham A.F.C. owners, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney as the team embarks on a stateside tour. And more significantly, the upcoming Women’s World Cup is right around the corner ready to provide the drama and theatrics to fill the void for a few weeks. Regardless, as in baseball, two strikes against you does not bode well for studios and networks, so it seems like it is just a matter of time before they re-illuminate their spotlight.

    • University of Missouri Wide Receiver Luther Burden III catches a name, image and likeness deal from Commerce Bank, thus improving its burden ratio. 
    • Rumors swirling social media cast Universal Studios as resorting to petty, retaliatory act of trimming tree branches along SAG-AFTRA and WGA picket lines to make the 90 degree Southern California heat that much more difficult to deal with. Another plausible explanation was that Universal Studios had an unrequited desire to yell “cut!”
    • Tennis icons Steffi Graf and Maria Sharapova are headed back to the court to compete alongside John McEnroe and Andre Agassi in a second installment of the first Pickleball Slam event that featured McEnroe, Agassi, Michael Chang and Andy Roddick. To the naysayers expecting a downfall in Pickleball, McEnroe says, “you *cannot* be serious!”

Welcome back to the Spotlight! Hope you didn’t miss me too much. I have to say, despite my break for Independence Day, I nearly hopped back into my writer’s chair when I saw the news out of Las Vegas of an alleged slap suffered by Britney Spears at the hands of top NBA Draft pick Victor Wembanyama’s security detail. Stories that incredible make it hard to believe this is real life.  But I was quickly diverted away to a different part of Las Vegas in awe of the bright shiny object that is the $2.2 billion MSG Sphere and its “exosphere” video system that spans the entire surface of the live events venue. Not to be outdone (speaking of bright shiny objects), my sons, resting comfortably in their respective beds were awoken by the cacophony of bright fireworks outside their bedroom window. Not ideal conditions for writing, let alone sleeping. Fortunately for Wembanyama, his security was cleared of wrongdoing, fortunately for my kids and the fireworks eventually stopped.  Unfortunately for me, I had to stop watching the wondrous Sphere, which brings me here to bring you what’s new.   
 
In a case that could have far-reaching impact on the interplay between intellectual property rights and artificial intelligence (AI), Comedian Sarah Silverman was among a group of authors suing Meta and ChatGPT creator OpenAI alleging that their artificial intelligence training program infringed their copyrights by lifting passages from books including Silverman’s “Bedwetter” (also an apt descriptor for those thinking about an AI uprising).

    • Dallas Mavericks point guard Kyrie Irving’s basketball shoe endorsement deal is with a four letter brand—just not the one that likely comes to mind. Instead of Oregon, his deal takes him around the globe (or disc, depending on your viewpoint) to Chinese apparel brand ANTA. Based on recent history it’s fair to wonder whether his shoe will be called “GONIST.”
       
    • The New York Yankees ink a jersey patch sponsorship deal (worth approximately $25 million per year) with a less-than-household-name, Starr Insurance.  Perhaps the $25 million per year will provide star insurance to offset the $40 million owed to an injured Aaron Judge (toe) this year.
       
    • Already knowing a thing or two about “pop” music in advertising, Coca-Cola is taking music recording in-house, launching “Coke Studio.” When reached for comment, Studio 54 said “stay in your lane!”   

Welcome back to the Spotlight and happy Fathers’ Day to all those celebrating (or celebrated) this weekend. If you’re a dad like me, you’re probably very tired, but also remarkably proud. Undoubtedly, the dads of the players for the Las Vegas Golden Knights and Denver Nuggets are especially proud of their having won the championships in their respective leagues (NHL and NBA) for the first time in history this past week (…maybe(?) a little less proud of celebratory debauchery, but that’s another story entirely).  One most valuable dad (MVD) who played a notable role in his child’s championship run is that of NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP), Nikola Jokić.  Were it not for Branislav Jokić’s fatherly wisdom to shirk becoming a horseman in favor of focusing on becoming a basketball player, the 6’11”, 284 pound Serbian superstar may not have shone as bright. Certainly, the NBA world would not have been able to tell a Jokić apart from a skin condition commonly treated with a medicated powder or ointment.

As it is, the people of Denver (and presumably the horses) are grateful for Jokić’s path, going from an afterthought (having infamously been drafted while ESPN was airing a Taco Bell commercial) to one of the best players in the world—all the while remaining humble, just as dad would have wanted. And just as you would have wanted, a few other highlights from this past week:

    • Phil Mickelson’s LIV Golf team, the Hyflyers may have flown too close to the Sun, as they face a trademark infringement lawsuit from an established skateboard apparel brand, Fallen, for having a confusingly similar logo.  The logos in question appear to be very similar designs of the letter “F” backwards and forwards—which is incidentally the grade that the Hyflyers’ legal counsel must have gotten in their law school trademark law class.
       
    • The Beatles’ Paul McCartney announces that artificial intelligence was used to re-create the late John Lennon’s voice to complete a final Beatles record. Some human intervention was needed to correct the recording as the AI model became confused and kept inserting noises of a walrus.
       
    • Twitter gets hit with a massive copyright infringement suit from major music publishers. Yet another lawsuit for Elon Musk to grapple with, hastening his plans to go to Mars.
       
    • Longtime Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak announces that he is R_T_R_NG.
       

If there are topics you’d like to see featured, parenting advice or any combination thereof, please feel free to contact me.

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