NFL Players Association’s New Accelerator Leverages Licenses, Players

Pro football's players association is working with major venture capital firms on its OneTeam Collective business accelerator. OneTeam startups, in exchange for equity, will have access to NFLPA’s valuable licenses—an asset the association has rarely offered before without a price tag.

The NFL Players Association (NFLPA), with its wide base of current and retired players (and the compensation that comes with those roles), is in a good spot to help its members invest in the future.

It’s also in a good spot to help startups related to the sports world. This week, NFLPA announced a new business accelerator called the OneTeam Collective, which it is founding with six other partners: Harvard Innovation Lab, Intel, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), LeadDog Marketing Group, Madrona Venture Group, and the Sports Innovation Lab.

The goal? To give innovative sports strategies a leg up. Ahmad Nassar, the head of NFL Players, Inc., the association’s licensing arm, said the accelerator is a way to boost the value of the association’s most valuable assets: the players.

“We are thrilled to bring together this remarkable group of world-class partners,” Nassar, who serves as OneTeam’s board chairman, said in a statement. “Together we will help companies unlock the value of the world’s greatest unifier—sports and the athletes who play them. With the OneTeam Collective, the goal is to build on that appeal to nurture and grow businesses that will be beneficial to all.”

The accelerator will be driven by a major change in the association’s strategy. Having traditionally accepted cash for nearly all of its licensing deals, NFLPA will instead take equity in the accelerator’s companies, which will gain access to licensing rights for the league’s more than 2,000 current players at a low rate—and even, in some cases, to the players themselves, who could become potential partners or investors.

“Our business has traditionally catered more to bigger companies—that’s great, and they’ve been tremendous partners for years and years,” Nassar explained in an interview with GeekWire. “But the hole [for] us has been these up-and-comers, the earlier-stage companies that [we] would be tremendously interested in working with and having access to intellectual property and funding.”

NFLPA won’t invest money in the firms, TechCrunch reports, but other partners in the accelerator will help make up for that—in particular, KPCB is one of Silicon Valley’s largest venture capital firms.

The structure, according to Madrona Venture Group Managing Director Scott Jacobson, gives growing startups a way to expand their bases beyond the accelerator. “The NFLPA creates the access, and we collectively bring the leverage,” Jacobson told GeekWire.

The idea for the accelerator was sparked by player interest after the NFLPA organized tours of major tech companies, such as Facebook and Uber, Geekwire reports. And if the venture works, it could give players a chance to build a career off the field—an issue NFLPA has long focused on.

“Players, both past and present, have so much to offer—but never in a way like this,” former NFL player Dhani Jones, the current managing partner of Qey Capital, noted in a news release.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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