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Welcome back to the Spotlight. It’s officially summertime, and the living is easy…or at least it should be (in theory) when you live in the (ahem…) spotlight. But with great star power, comes great responsibility (sidebar: I can say with certainty that this is the only time today that you read a work with a “Porgy and Bess” reference followed by a “Spider-Man” reference). That is the lesson that the NBA is seeking to impart on its All-Star player Ja Morant, handing down a 25 game suspension stemming from his flashing firearms on social media on at least two occasions (the first such occurrence leading to a 6 game suspension). Morant, whose talents have been celebrated by the league for drawing in a younger generation of basketball fans as superstars such as LeBron James age, now finds himself in a precarious position with the league and his endorsement partners. While it does not appear as if any of his contracts have been terminated, another misstep could send Morant crashing back down to earth—a cautionary tale for public figures in the age of social media, of which this year’s NBA draft class would be wise to take note.

    • NBC’s streaming service Peacock secures naming rights for the Los Angeles theater at which the EMMY Awards are held. One may find it clever that the name denotes a place to show off and be seen, but I think that it’s just fowl.

    • YouTube announced that as part of its inaugural season offering NFL Sunday Ticket programming this year, each subscription will allow unlimited simultaneous streams. Cord-cutters and cat video enthusiasts alike will undoubtedly rejoice at being able to watch the Week 5 matchup between the Panthers and the Lions.

    • The artificial intelligence, machine-learning music platform WAVS.AI, that made wav(e)s for streaming its AI-generated fake Drake song, “Heart on My Sleeve” has raised $20 million. The company will use a few hundred dollars of that to buy a companion for its AI machine (a microwave oven) and the rest will fund the company’s litigation costs.

    • Recording Artist INFJ Kenzo signs a $60 million debut recording agreement with an Israeli investment firm. Maybe I am getting old, but that’s a falafel lot of money for someone I had not heard of until five minutes ago.

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.

Welcome back to the Spotlight! This week, I aim to be your breath of fresh air since the Canadian wildfires are likely depriving you of the same. Another apparent smokescreen (albeit one that did not make the Sun appear red) was revealed in the sports world earlier this week, as the PGA Tour and LIV Golf settled their lawsuit against one another by agreeing to join forces. This news comes despite nearly two years of mudslinging, not the least of which came from PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, who as recently as last year extolled the fact that, unlike the Saudi-backed LIV Golf, the PGA Tour was not funded by the same coffers that funded the 9/11 terror attacks. As Commissioner, it was Monahan who cut the deal. How quickly things change, particularly when there is seemingly limitless money involved.

Naturally, sideline observers and internet trolls alike have felt compelled to ridicule as inconsequential the decisions of big-name golfers such as Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy to decline the hundreds of millions of dollars being offered to have them join LIV Golf. But, while Woods and McIlroy must feel like the friends who badmouth another friend’s ex, only to find out that friend made-up with and got engaged to the ex, I doubt that they are losing much sleep over their decisions. Not only have they done very well for themselves professionally, but they have also helped bring light to the phenomenon known as “sports washing.” It is fair to wonder whether the principled stance factored into iconic soccer star Lionel Messi’s recent decision to decline a reported $1 billion offer to play in Saudi Arabia, in favor of an incentive-laden deal (rumored to include revenue sharing in MLS’ streaming rights deal with Apple, Adidas sponsorship and the right to acquire ownership in a future MLS franchise) to join Inter Miami as a Major League Soccer. That should pair nicely with Messi’s Apple+ docuseries.

    • The band Coldplay announced that they had reduced carbon emissions from their tour by almost 50%--and not just by cutting their setlist. Meanwhile, the full-throated screaming at Taylor Swift’s tour has pushed CO2 levels beyond pre-industrial levels.
    • The Cincinnati Bengals and stadium sponsor Paycor are giving back to their community, hosting an innovation pitch competition giving minority-owned businesses a chance to win a sponsorship package for the Bengals 2023 season. Through the sponsorship, the businesses hope to gain brand recognition and, in so doing, answer the question, “WHO DEY?”
    • Fashion House Louis Vuitton introduces a luxury NFT collection, making spending money on its merchandise that much harder to justify (sorry, honey!).

Welcome back to the Spotlight (to everyone but the Boston Celtics, who made it as far as opening the link but didn’t put in the effort to read any further)! A little basketball humor to kick off this week and get me blacklisted throughout New England. For those who were rooting for a comeback in the Heat and Celtics playoff series, you actually got exactly what you wanted, if not the one you realized. Indeed, by now, you have probably read or seen that just a year earlier, Heat forward (and fellow JB) Jimmy Butler boldly stated after a Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics that he and his team would be back and get the job done next year. And like a stereotypical murder mystery, (the) Butler did it, propelling his team to the NBA Finals through countless memorable performances. Full of foresight and confidence, if Butler’s on-court performance has been stellar, his off-court performance has been savvy. Having demonstrated an entrepreneurial chops in 2020 during the NBA’s COVID-abbreviated “bubble” season, selling $20 cups of coffee, Butler continued keeping an eye on business by having his legal team file for trademarks for HIMMY BUCKETS for use in connection with clothing…and coffee. The lesson? Always bet on yourself and surround yourself with a team to help you take advantage of opportunities when they come knocking. Not unlike taking advantage of the opportunity to read this week’s Spotlight.

    • Retired tennis great Roger Federer follows the route taken by such celebrities as Christina Aguilera and has lent his voice to traffic navigation app Waze. A surprising move for someone who’s not used to being out.

    • The Scottish Pickleball National Championships are set to get underway. Great news for the continued growth of the sport. Terrible news for the ball boy/girl who has to retrieve errant bounces from players’ kilts.

    • Wildly popular Netflix series King of Collectibles: Goldin Touch is the subject of a copyright infringement dispute in which the plaintiffs allege their concept for the show was stolen from them. Best case scenario for the defendants, they win. Worst case scenario is they lose and get to auction off original pleadings from the litigation.

Welcome back to the Spotlight! In advance of the long weekend, I had the pleasure of attending Sports Business Journal and Leaders Group’s 4se (pronounced “force”) 2023 focusing on marketing, branding and leadership in the sports and entertainment industries.  There, I met handfuls of like-minded peers, while listening to panels of influential people sharing their experiences with the attendees, while highlighting the seemingly endless intersections between these industries.

Notably, conference attendees had the privilege of hearing athletes and entertainers such as 2 time Superbowl champion New York Giants players Eli Manning and Justin Tuck and rap icon Fat Joe talk candidly about how they have parlayed their professional careers into even loftier heights in the business world. Other highlights included an emphasis on the ascendancy of women’s sports, impressive rap skills from Rhymefest and Golden State Warriors’ Chief Legal Officer David Kelly (I graciously conceded he was the better rapping lawyer).

All in all, I came away from the event feeling inspired and dare I say cool? And that’s notwithstanding an embarrassing blunder by me! Let’s just say trying to shake hands while balancing a cup of rice and beans on a plate is more perilous than it sounds. Anyway, let’s kick things off…

    • Maryland-based Under Armour goes local for their NIL deal with University of Maryland basketball star, Diamond Miller. A Zales endorsement deal can’t be too far away. 
    • Bank of America is sued by would-be Washington Commanders suitor Brian Davis’ company, for allegedly flubbing a $7.1 billion offer. $500 billion in damages is being sought, which in Bank of America’s defense seems egregious in light of the fact that the case concerns the Washington Commanders. 
    • Shaquille O’Neal and David Beckham’s production companies are being housed under the newly formed Authentic Studios. Here’s hoping a “Kazaam” and “Bend it Like Beckham” crossover is in development. 

Welcome back to the Spotlight, where your readership is coveted as much as French basketball player Victor Wembanyama (bonus points to me for spelling it right the first time without Google) is by your favorite NBA team. More likely than not, Wemby will be landing in San Antonio where fellow countryman Tony Parker once parlez vous’ed all over the league. As the presumptive first pick in the NBA Draft, he has a sizable rookie contract and endless international marketing opportunities in front of him. That’s all before even touching the NBA hardwood. Of course, there’s always the ability as a later draft pick like Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant to achieve stardom and fortune through on-court performance. In the span of four seasons, he’s secured endorsement deals from Powerade and Nike. But while Morant’s on-court talent has never been in question, his off-court actions — appearing armed with a handgun on his social media accounts (already resulting in a 10 game suspension, with more likely on the way)—may make sponsors distance themselves. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot! It’s a familiar cautionary tale, but in the public eye, athletes and entertainers alike should be mindful to be beyond reproach and keep themselves out of the controversy Spotlight.

    • Live professional pickleball matches will soon be available for streaming on Amazon Prime. So now the sport accessible to all ages will be available to the masses (as long as your parents can figure out how to use the remote control). 
    • Short form video social media company TikTok strikes deals with several digital music distributors to provide new monetization opportunities for their artists (and new choreography trends for Gen Z to make the older generations increasingly out of touch). 
    • The members of disco group The Village People sent a cease and desist letter to Donald Trump alleging that impersonating acts at his Mar-A-Lago Resort is an illegal misappropriation of their name, image and likeness. Trump would do well to look into alternative acts. 

Welcome back to the Spotlight! The buzz this week surrounds the strike announced by the Writers’ Guild of America after failing to obtain concessions from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.  Leave it to the WGA to script that the strike took place on May Day (International Workers’ Day).  As it is, countless television and film productions have been sidelined and rendered speechless. Lucky for you, dear reader, I carry no union cards, so the only “scab” currently in my world is on my son’s chin from a slip and fall.  For any television and film executives out there who are looking for help, consider this blog my portfolio. Feel free to contact me any time.  My conditions of employment? Good question! I have a bunch of requests – but I don’t feel like I have the leverage to ask for them on my own.  If only there were some type of organization of others like me that could negotiate on behalf of us all…oh well! Anyway, brief programming note (call it solidarity) but I will not be in my writers’ room next week. See you in two weeks (unless ChatGPT replaces me in meantime).

  1. Just days after pop singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran testified that he would stop making music if the jury handed down a verdict against him in the copyright infringement litigation by Marvin Gaye’s estate, Sheeran prevailed. Whether it was because the jury thought it was in bad taste when Gaye’s estate made a similar statement, or because there was no substantial similarity in the works is unknown. 

  2. Snoop Dogg joins businessman Neko Sparks’ bid for the National Hockey League’s Ottawa Senators. The move would mark the first majority black owned franchise for the NHL, potentially opening up the NHL to an untapped market. Snoop might also bring new meaning to the term, “high-sticking.”

  3. Louisiana State University gymnast and NIL pioneer Olivia Dunne has parlayed her social media presence into the pages of the upcoming Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. The move is not only a lesson on the new self-branding opportunities available for college athletes, but is also likely to drive a photographer’s production assistant to research what to feed a pommel horse.

  4. Nike inks a lifetime deal with Phoenix Suns star Kevin Durant. A rare feat, but don’t get too excited – he will probably ask to be traded 2 years from now.     

Welcome back to the Spotlight! If there ever was a story that blends the magic and romanticism of Hollywood with the unbridled enthusiasm and competition of sports, it’s that of Welsh football club, Wrexham A.F.C. Acquired by actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney for the relatively low price of $2.5 million in 2021, the duo quickly won over Wrexham supporters (indeed it was a prerequisite to the bidding process) and an American audience that until recently thought “football in Wales” was something better dealt with by a marine biologist. That Reynolds and McElhenney have had success is an understatement. Using their celebrity profile, they launched the docuseries “Welcome to Wrexham,” which has been picked up for multiple seasons. Nothing short of marketing genius and we should expect no less than that from Reynolds, as pretty much everything he touches-from gin to mobile phone service—turns to gold (“Green Lantern” is the outlier). This is of course to say nothing of the fact that the club has backed up their newfound attention with victories on the pitch, ascending to League Two (one rung up from where the team had been when acquired in 2021, and three promotions removed from the English Premier League. Reaching those heights will be a daunting process, but, with the marketing opportunities the club could provide, by no means a white W(h)ale.

Without further ado, here’s what else is making waves:

    • The Ottawa Senators are on the market for a price tag that could reach an NHL record setting $1 billion, with bidders including a group backed by Ryan Reynolds. An overpayment if you ask me—there are plenty of Senators that have been bought for less. 

    • University of Texas’ five star recruit Quarterback Arch Manning has made it known (through his coach Steve Sarkisian) that he intends to keep his name, image and likeness (NIL) earnings at nil until he earns the starting Quarterback position, despite having one of the highest projected values for college athletes. Whether influenced by the fact he’s not hurting for money (you may have heard of his grandfather and uncles), being a good teammate or enjoying wordplay as much as I do, it’s a notable stance. 
    • Pop recording artist Ed Sheeran is in the midst of a trial facing allegations that his ballad “Thinking Out Loud” infringes the copyrights to Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” Jurors’ deliberation room will undoubtedly be equipped with an assortment scented candles.

    • A week after Fake Drake and The Weeknd popped up on streaming services through the help of A.I., recording artist Grimes has voiced (at least I think it’s her voice) her intent to embrace the disruptive technology for her own songs.  On the one hand, this is shocking given the potential threat of A.I. to the music industry. On the other hand, it is not all that surprising for someone who named her and Elon Musk’s firstborn, “X Æ A-Xii.”

Welcome to the Spotlight! It seems that talk of being at an inflection point in the adoption of artificial intelligence (hat tip to Haley Joel Osment) is ubiquitous. First, there came the lawsuit by Getty Images against an AI software company for scraping data from its image repository.

Last month, we heard several stories about college athletes using artificial intelligence software to write essays and LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne vaulting her name, image and likeness toward the endorsement of one of the companies behind such software, sending academics, ethicists and talking heads alike into an uproar. The latest saga involves a Drake and The Weeknd collaboration called “Heart on My Sleeve.” Only it’s not really Drake and The Weeknd, but rather AI language models mimicking their voices to create something new and eerily mistakable for the real thing. To say that this will keep record label executives up at night is an understatement. Never mind (hat tip to Nirvana) the whole existential-threat-to-humanity shtick that comes along with A.I., but the music industry may have a big problem on its hands if these A.I. creations continue to wind up on streaming services and legislation. Talk about virtual insanity (hat tip to Jamiroquai).

For now, here to boost your natural intelligence are some other stories in this week’s Spotlight:

    • 7-foot 1-inch, 325 pound NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal was finally served with legal process in the FTX crypto-investor class action after nearly three months of failed attempts. What changed this time around? The process server opened their eyes.

    • Jungkook of K-Pop heartthrob group BTS makes a sizable donation to a Children’s Hospital in South Korea, and in so doing, proves he has a Seoul.

    • Poster women of the NIL era in college athletics, Haley and Hanna Cavinder are moving on from college but only getting started in the sports and entertainment industry, taking their podcast to Betr Media and announcing their intent to be professional wrestlers with World Wrestling Entertainment. A Doublemint Gum endorsement cannot be far off.

Welcome back to the Spotlight! With the Spring holidays in swing and many on Spring Break, I will be brief as I realize reading sports and entertainment business and legal stories may be the lEaster your worries. But I couldn’t Passover an opportunity to check-in. Yikes, those were pretty bad – even for my standards. In any event, I will be off on vacation next week, during which time I can perhaps come up with better material. But for now, your Easter egg/Afikomen prize is below: 

    • Angel Reese has been the topic of much discussion with regard to sportsmanship and implicit bias following her LSU Tigers’ Basketball National Championship victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes. Over all the noise, she has become a household name and the “Bayou Barbie” has positioned herself to buy that dream home.
    • IT and Security Management firm Kaseya secures naming rights to the Miami Heat’s NBA Arena, becoming a successor to cryptocurrency exchange turned criminal enterprise FTX.  But the heat still remains on Miami shooting guard Jimmy Butler, who is facing legal action over his ties to crypto exchange Binance.

    • Artificial Intelligence may hold the power to keep celebrities entertaining long beyond their natural lives. In a related story, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve 2024 will be hosted by Dick Clark with musical performances by Elvis Presley and Ludwig von Beethoven. 

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