Former NFL Stars Embrace eSports With New Tournament

The Pro Football Retired Players Association is launching a new eSports tournament that will offer gamers the chance to meet and maybe even compete with legendary pro football icons.

When many retired football players were still on the field, video games were far more primitive than they are today—if they even existed at all.

But it’s clear that sports games of the modern day are a great way to tap into the excitement of football—and with that in mind, the Pro Football Retired Players Association (PFRPA) is putting together a tournament this summer that will bring together some of the stars who defined the game with video game players.

The Gridiron Gaming event, planned for June 22 in Dallas, will aim to draw in both traditional fans and eSports fans in an arena purpose-built for video games. The Mavs Gaming Center, a facility built as a part of the NBA’s own push into eSports, includes a 4,800-square-foot gaming arena along with a 35-foot gaming screen. The event will offer the opportunity for gamers to play against former NFL stars, many of whom are in the Hall of Fame and remain household names.

Dave Robinson, the vice chair of PFRPA and one of those Hall of Famers, said the model opens new opportunities for players who haven’t had a chance to get on the gridiron for decades.

“The rapid development of gaming provides an opportunity for retired NFL players to connect with fans in the U.S. and around the world,” Robinson said in a news release. “The eSports industry is thriving, and it allows retired players to be part of exciting, new possibilities.”

One such example is PFRPA chair, Jim Brown, a three-time MVP and movie star who retired from the NFL in 1966.

PFRPA, formed in 2013 as a result of a settlement with the NFL over image and likeness rights, work with players to maintain theirstill-relevant legacies. In 2016, the association teamed with the talent management firm IMG to launch the Football Greats Alliance, an agency to help manage the commercial interests of the group, which counts dozens of Heisman Trophy winners and NFL MVPs as a part of its membership. The alliance aims to create and manage commercial opportunities for the former football stars.

PFRPA board member Jack Youngblood, also an NFL Hall of Famer, noted in a news release that Gridiron Gaming represents one of those opportunities.

“As we grow as an organization, it’s important for us to not only be a resource for retired NFL players, but also a platform to help develop their brand equity,” Youngblood said in the news release. “We see eSports as one way to accomplish that for our membership.”

(Tero Vesalainen/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

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

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