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How NFTs Are Changing The Game For Professional Athletes

Professional athletes represent the most physically and mentally gifted individuals of the human race. And because of their unique superpowers, their name, image, and likeness are often a hot commodity among consumers.

Unfortunately, for a long time, athletes have been unable to fully cash in on their personal value.

Take, for instance, a Mickey Mantle baseball card. For those unaware, Mantle was a famous outfielder and first baseman who spent the entirety of his eighteen-year career with the sport’s most storied franchise, the New York Yankees. In that time, he won three American League Most Valuable Player awards, a triple crown, and helped lead the Bronx Bombers to a whopping seven World Series titles. It would make sense that Mantle and his estate would be able to monetize every iota of his Hall of Fame career.

Well, that was not the case in August 2022, when Heritage Auctions sold a Mickey Mantle baseball card for 12.6 million U.S. dollars, making it the most expensive sports trading card sold at auction to date.

How much of this 12.6 million did Mantle and his estate collect? Not a penny. That’s right. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero.

Despite all the blood, sweat, and tears Mantle gave to the game of baseball, he and his descendants were unable to benefit from the sale of his name, image, and likeness.

An unjust outcome indeed, but how can we remedy this problem in the system while still enabling fans to collect and sell sports memorabilia?

Enter Non-Fungible Tokens, or as they are commonly known: NFTs. Regardless of what you call them, they are changing the sports memorabilia industry for the better.

“Non-Fungible Tokens have revolutionized the art and entertainment world. Verifying the originality of art, music, or videos on blockchain has reshaped ownership,” Jesse Foreman, NFL agent for Young Money Sports and Co-Founder of Young Money APAA Kingdom, explained.

“NFTs are revolutionizing the concept of sports memorabilia by allowing the fans to own players’ cards and video clips from games.”

Most importantly, they also correct the problem posed earlier in our Mantle quandary, as NFTs distribute royalties to the athlete and their estate on resales (at a rate of usually 3-10%). So, if the Mantle card that was sold for 12.6 million had been an NFT, his estate could have received somewhere between 378,000 and 1.26 million dollars from that sale.

And NFTs have shown to be mighty valuable, too. Fellow former Yankee Brett Gardner’s NFT was reported to be worth nearly 21.3 million dollars as recently as December 2022. In the same article, LeBron James showed that he’s not only The King of the NBA, but also The King of NFTs, owning the highest recorded sale of an NFT by an athlete (21.6 million).

With NFTs now providing a pathway for athletes to maximize their value in the memorabilia world, some agencies have started providing clients with their own digital player cards. This allows them to sell the card, make a full profit off of that, and then collect 3-10% in royalties on any resales that may occur after that.

In fact, Foreman’s agency, Young Money APAA Sports, is joining the foray themselves, as starting today, they will begin supplying each client with their own player card so they can begin profiting off their name, image, and likeness.

“The future is being built on blockchain, and we want to use it to revolutionize the way fans engage with athletes,” Foreman remarked in an interview with Forbes.

Foreman anticipates that NFTs are only the beginning and that soon, the Metaverse will also offer opportunities for athletes to both enhance their brand and engage with fans. “The NFT is just the start. We envision our clients playing sports with their fans in the Metaverse.”

Outside of Young Money, Disruptive, Wasserman, Creative Artists Agency, VaynerSports, and Steinberg Sports, all offer similar NFT resources to their clients.

Athletes are a rare breed. And they deserve to cash in on every drop of that rarity. With NFTs, they now have another way to do so.

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