If you watch any television at all this time of year, you’ll undoubtedly notice the awkward phrasing of certain commercials that euphemistically refer to the Super Bowl as “the Big Game” or “Football Sunday.” As a licensed practitioner of the law, I can explain: Each year, the NFL accounting team severely overestimates the “legal services” line-item in its annual budget. As a result, “NFL Legal” fulfills its billable hour quota by drafting cease-and-desist letters for regional mattress chains and pizza shops.
This year, the NFL legal team will continue to justify its existence by aggressively enforcing its trademark in the term “Super Bowl” against advertisers using the phrase in their promotional material. Of course, media outlets may continue to make use of the mark in news stories or other noncommercial discussions per the doctrine of fair use. Fortunately for the A of E, our blog is as “noncommercial” as it gets.
In keeping with the NFL’s highfalutin legalisms, it’s important to remember that the Super Bowl is not just a super important sporting event and cultural touchstone; it’s also a complex latticework of legal obligations that form the very substructure of the event itself. Behind every field goal, beer commercial and knee-slap-inducing Frank Caliendo performance, there is a legal document governing the rights, covenants, warranties, and representations of the respective parties. It is in these documents that the sterling silver alloy forming the Vince Lombardi Trophy is forged.
Below is a list of some of the important interlineations found in a sampling of the contracts, licenses, and other assorted legal miscellany that memorialize the terms and conditions under which we all get to enjoy the Big Game:
- Personal Services Contract by and among Dallas Gentleman’s Club, Inc. (the “Club”), Hines E. Ward, Jr. (Ward”), and Ivan “Ike” Taylor (“Taylor”): All of the benefits and privileges inuring to Ward and Taylor shall be limited solely to “Make It Rain Mondays,” and shall not be applicable to “Tap That Tuesdays” or “Co-Worker’s History of Sexual Assault Wednesdays.”
- Persona Licensing Agreement by and between DeMaurice Smith (“Smith”) and the National Broadcasting Company (“NBC”): Notwithstanding anything contained herein to the contrary, Smith’s rights to mimic the mannerisms, speech, and other personal characteristics of Seinfeld huckster-attorney Jackie Chiles shall be limited in scope for the sole purpose of conducting conspicuous Media Week and/or pre-game grandstanding.
- Puppy Bowl Performance Contract by and between Discovery Communications, Inc. d/b/a “Animal Planet” (the “Network”) and Oliver, a 9-Week-Old Great Pyrenees (the “Puppy”): Puppy hereby agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Network, and its directors and officers from and against any and all expenses, losses, claims, damages, and liability resulting from all consequential damages, directly or indirectly arising out of or relating to any nipping, pouncing, or other rascally behavior.
- Gesture Appropriation License by and between World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (the “WWE”) and Aaron C. Rodgers (“Rodgers”): Rogers acknowledges and agrees that the championship belt hip-thrust gesture shall remain to sole exclusive property of WWE and shall not be used for any commercial purposes without the expressed, written consent of the WWE or its entirely competent staff of attorneys. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, Rodgers expressly agrees that no use or other adaptation of other trademark gestures shall be made, including but not limited to the crotch-crop (open-handed), the Jeff Hardy Dance ™, and any expressive eyebrow movements.
- Dignity Expungement Agreement by and between GoDaddy.com (“GoDaddy”) and Danica Sue Patrick (“Patrick”): Patrick hereby holds GoDaddy harmless from any and all loss of personal self-worth, pride and dignity in any way relating to GoDaddy-sponsored promotional events and advertising.
- Escrow Agreement by and among the National Football League (“NFL”), Fox Broadcasting Co., Inc. (“Fox”) and The Black-Eyed Peas (“Ferg”): All consideration payable to Ferg for the Half-Time Show (as hereafter defined) shall be held in escrow pending an exhaustive performance review by Standards and Practices. All usages of the term “Lady Lumps” and all admonitions to spontaneously develop mental retardation shall be pre-approved by each of the foregoing parties on a context-specific basis.
- Pre-Game Memorandum from NFL Commission Roger Goodell to all Super Bowl Participants: Let’s keep it clean gentlemen. As you know, we will be fining players for illegal hits in our continuing effort to limit concussions. In the meantime, and as usual, prepare yourself mentally for an 18 game season.