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Understanding the NFL’s Relationship with Blockchain Technology

NFL blockchain technology
The NFL and its tentative relationship with blockchain technology.
NFL blockchain technology
The NFL and its tentative relationship with blockchain technology. Pictured Tom Brady, early pioneer of NFT’s.

The NFL and its tentative relationship with blockchain technology: what to expect going forward as sports open up to cryptocurrencies. 

Blockchain, the technology that enables cryptocurrencies to operate, isn’t just some pipe dream. It’s here and enjoying implementation in everyday life. 

In the banking world, some banks and institutions are using it to combat fraud and track transactions. In some governments, leaders are making use of blockchain tools and technology to administer benefits payments and to structure more democratic organizations, and in the media, some companies are monitoring intellectual property rights and payments to professionals.

Blockchain is establishing itself more and more in the modern world. One niche in which blockchain is beginning to become more present is the world of sport, and it’s starting to gain a foothold in one of sport’s most valuable league: the NFL. Below is a look at the relationship between blockchain and the NFL, and also how it could change in the future.

The NFL and its tentative relationship with blockchain

The NFL sparked excitement in the digital currency world when it advertised for a “Director of Emerging Products,” which people in the crypto world understood to be mean the league might embrace cryptocurrencies. There had already been a rumor before the advert that the NFL had been looking into blockchain for ticketing and collectibles.

While the wider organization looks into getting active with blockchain, teams and some individuals in the sport have already shown themselves to be receptive to the technology.

Acceptance of cryptocurrency

One team to embrace cryptocurrency has been the Miami Dolphins. In 2019, the club announced it had partnered with Litecoin, which would be its official cryptocurrency. Under the partnership, fans became allowed to pay for the club’s 50/50 raffle tickets, half of the proceeds of which would benefit the Miami Dolphins Foundation and its causes. 

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) 

Despite the NFL’s reluctance to adopt blockchain technology, blockchain hasn’t ruled it out completely. The league has partnered up with DapperLabs to create digital video collectibles. The NFL looks constantly for ways to drive engagement and have decided, using blockchain technology from DapperLabs, to make it possible for fans to collect digital video Moments of the best plays of the season.

Whereas the wider organization has been reluctant to get active with blockchain and NFTs, some players have made the most of them. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady has been one of the most notable. In 2021, Brady launched his own NFT company, Autograph, which has partnered with entertainment company Lionsgate and sports betting company DraftKings. The DraftKings NFT marketplace has been a hit with fans of NFL, enabling users to purchase unique sports collectibles. 

How could the relationship change in the future?

Blockchain technology, really, is still in its infancy and operators in the blockchain world are still trying to convince the different elements of society to adopt blockchain technology. Blockchain is gradually becoming a part of mainstream everyday life in some areas, though. So how could the NFL’s relationship with blockchain change?

Acceptance of cryptocurrency

One of the opportunities blockchain offers the NFL is the chance to attract new fans and to engage existing ones by allowing fans to pay for tickets in digital currencies. Younger generations are digitally savvy and may appreciate being able to pay in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. Clubs in some sports, such as soccer, already accept cryptocurrencies. Will NFL teams follow?

Sponsorship and advertising

While the NFL looks into the adoption and implementation of blockchain, it has prohibited teams from selling sponsorship or advertising to cryptocurrency firms. There are issues around cryptocurrency, such as volatility, potential exploitation by scammers and a lack of empirical research, so the NFL is still a little wary of the blockchain and cryptocurrency world until it truly understands it and how to work with it safely. 

Let’s remember, however, that the NFL was slow to welcome sponsorship and advertising by betting companies. Since its initial opposition the league has had a change of heart, and that’s worked out well for both sides. Fans could see more sponsorship and advertising deals in the NFL with cryptocurrency firms.

This could especially be the case when it appears to be working so well in other leagues and associations. In the NBA, for instance, the Miami Heat are enjoying playing their home games as the FTX Arena, but the crypto derivatives exchange also has deals going in other areas of sporting life, such as basketball and baseball and football in Europe.

Team sales of NFTs

Just now, players like Tom Brady are capitalizing on blockchain, by selling NFTs, to make some extra coin. However, the NFL has forbidden teams to sell NFTs. The league is still trying to come up with a suitable strategy for sports trading cards and art. Until then, team NFTs are out of the question. 

This looks set to change in the future and is more a question of “When?” than whether it will change. Some of the world’s biggest soccer clubs, including PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United and Arsenal, are already selling NFTs, as is the major sporting organization, the NBA. The NFL may not want to fall behind.

At present, the NFL is somewhat reluctant to fully embrace blockchain technology, but it hasn’t ruled out the adoption of blockchain altogether. There are encouraging signs that blockchain may establish a firmer, more welcome presence in the league. Some clubs and players are already reaping the benefits that blockchain offers them.