NFL Players Association Invests in Blockchain Startup

SportsCastr, a live-streaming platform that allows anyone to become a color commentator, announced recently that the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), via its athlete-driven accelerator the OneTeam Collective, has acquired a minority stake in the company to power live, interactive video content for fans. Through this partnership, active and former NFL players will use SportsCastr to provide live commentary across a wide range of professional and collegiate sports, share personal insights, and more.

‘Premium Player Content’

In June, SportsCastr announced FanChain, a cryptocurrency developed for the multi-billion-dollar global sports market. FanChain allows SportsCastr users to earn tokens for participating on the platform, and those tokens can then be used to unlock premium NFL player content (such as back-stage access), purchase sports tickets or merchandise, and send virtual gifts to NFL players.

As part of this agreement, SportsCastr becomes an official licensee of the NFLPA in the categories of mobile apps and web-based platforms that allow users to discuss a variety of sports topics, including through video streams and chats. SportsCastr is the eighth active NFLPA partner secured through the OneTeam Collective, which is designed to give innovative early stage companies the opportunity to leverage the NFLPA’s exclusive group player rights, in exchange for equity.

We recently reported that English Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers signed a sleeve sponsorpship deal with crypto exchange platform CoinDeal, in what is becoming a recurrent story of collaboration between sporting organisations and cryptocurrency businesses.

Giving his thoughts on the partnership, Ricky Medina, Senior Manager of Business Development for NFL Players Inc., the licensing and marketing arm of the NFLPA said:

“Athletes constantly explore ways to build their personal brands and creatively connect with their fans, and SportsCastr’s live-stream capabilities align perfectly with these goals. We look forward to working with the team at SportsCastr to deliver an exciting new way for fans to engage with their favorite athletes while watching the sports they love.”

Interview with NFLPA VP and SportsCastr CEO

Ahead of the launch, CCN sat down with Casey Schwab, Vice President, Business and Legal Affairs, NFLPA and SportsCastr CEO Kevin April to get some insights into FanChain and the larger emerging pattern of cooperation between professional sports and cryptocurrency companies:

What does it do for a player to have this platform that grants his fans this kind of access to him? Why is SportsCastr important for an NFL player?

Casey Schwab: SportsCastr will allow NFL players to broadcast live events while earning tokens directly from fans. It is all about engagement; players want to engage directly with their fans. SportsCastr provides a unique platform for NFL players to do just that.

Fans can redeem the cryptocurrency they earn on the platform for real prizes like backstage access to NFL players. Is there a plan to scale up the adoption of this sort of technology across the sports industry, and if so what role will the NFLPA play in making this happen?

Casey Schwab: The FanChain tokens will be able to be used for a variety of things. Think about it as connecting the digital world (tokens) to the physical (apparel, experiences). As for scaling, through our licensing agency, Rep Worldwide, we have partnered with multiple other professional athlete unions like the UW Women’s National Team Players Association and WNBA Players Association. We are always looking for ways to provide commercial opportunities for athletes, not just football players.

Tell us about the One Team Collective. What projects has it facilitated and what is it currently working on apart from this partnership with SportsCastr?

Casey Schwab: The OneTeam Collective is our version of a startup accelerator. It is the first ever athlete-driven accelerator. To date, we have partnered with multiple companies ranging from performance and biometric data collection to voice recognition technology. We feel that blockchain-based systems like SportsCastr have great potential, and we are excited for what SportsCastr is doing.

Let’s talk a bit about FanChain. What protocol is it built on and how does it work exactly?

Kevin April: We recognized that fans are typically fans of teams — not leagues or sports — so we had to start from the drawing board to create a token that could essentially be embedded with team-affinity. We came up with a unique token (“FANZ”) that can be “stamped” with team-metadata that is visible when used within the FanChain network, but which is also completely fungible within the broader cryptocurrency landscape. In other words, FANZ is ERC20 compliant but also has ERC721-style characteristics (in the form of “Team stamps”) when used within the ecosystem. We call this a fungible/non-fungible hybrid token.

In practical terms, if you go live on SportsCastr and call a Manchester United game, you will receive tokens that are categorized as Manchester United tokens. Call a Los Angeles Lakers game and receive tokens that associates them with the Lakers.

Of course, FanChain isn’t just a token – it’s an entirely decentralized ecosystem. At the heart of the FanChain ecosystem is a concept called a “Mint.” A Mint can be any sports publisher, league, team or sports media company — or any sports-related entity — that is issued or acquires FanChain tokens to distribute and reward fans. Mints interact with the FanChain ecosystem using a special DApp or API. They can’t create new FanChain tokens, but they are the only ones that can change the team-stamps on tokens that are in their possession. Our live-streaming app, SportsCastr, is the first Mint, but the ecosystem is set-up so that other content-rewarding platforms can join in on the action.

What do you think about the growing partnership between sports and cryptocurrencies? Is it sustainable and why is it important for the crypto industry to get this kind of publicity?

Kevin April: Sports may be the vehicle that cryptocurrency needs to usher in adoption. According to KPMG, the global sports market generates in excess of $500 billion USD a year. And because there’s nothing more global or mainstream than sports, there is  an opportunity to introduce cryptocurrency to a massive audience that crosses every border and speaks every language. This is why the convergence of sports and cryptocurrency is important — because it has the power to change things and move the status quo forward. I think we’re just at the beginning of this trend. If you look at eSports, players are already comfortable with the idea of digital currencies and global communities… and eSports and sports are very much converging themselves (with eSports leading the way.) And if you look at the Olympics — where you have countries that are at war with each other temporarily setting aside their differences to march and compete together — you see the power of sport. Not only is the coming together of sports and cryptocurrency sustainable, it may be the most important pairing that cryptocurrency has seen to date.

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