NFL to teams: No cryptocurrency, NFT deals for now as league eyes digital market

The NFL informed teams last month they could not, for now, sell sponsorships to cryptocurrency trading firms, multiple club sources said. Teams also cannot sell non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as the league develops a strategy in the hot and cold market for sports digital trading cards and art.

Other leagues have opened the floodgates for digital assets, but the NFL is notoriously cautious with new commercial categories, going slowly, for example, with gambling and alcohol before relaxing its restrictions. In the case of cryptocurrency, the league will only, for the moment, allow teams to align with companies that are a step removed from the trading, the asset managers that sell funds to track the digital currency markets.

“Clubs are prohibited from selling, or otherwise allowing within club controlled media, advertisements for specific cryptocurrencies, initial coin offerings, other cryptocurrency sales or any other media category as it relates to blockchain, digital asset or as blockchain company, except as outlined in this policy,” according to the new guidelines, as read by a team official, who requested anonymity. 

A blockchain is a digital ledger whose technology powers crypto and NFT sales.

The restrictions would appear to exclude some of the principal players in crypto, like FTX, a digital currency exchange endorsed by Tom Brady that has been on a bit of a sports deal binge, including finalizing a 19-year, $135 million naming rights agreement for the Miami Heat’s arena and a 10-year, $210 million agreement to switch the name of esports organization Team SoloMid to TSM FTX. 

The NFL is also ruling out, for the time being, team NFTs. The NBA has had great success with NBA Top Shot, its vault of NFTs, which are digital highlights marketed as unique to the buyer. NBA Top Shot is operated through the league, and not by teams. 

What the policy does allow, the team official said, is sponsorships with “companies whose primary business is providing investment advisory and or fund management services in connection with cryptocurrency, provided that such advertising sponsorship rights are limited to promoting the company’s corporate brands.”

(Photo: Robin Alam / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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