The NFL Players Association is launching an accelerator to trade licensing rights for equity

Tech accelerators have been a hot topic over the past few years, especially within industries that have traditionally eschewed the world of startups and technology. Media companies, sports teams, and even the U.S Government have opened their own accelerators.

And now, The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) is joining the action. The group announced that they are launching The One Team Collective, a technology and business accelerator for startups in the sports space.


As a reminder, the NFL Players Association is different from the National Football League – the NFLPA is the union organization that represents the players in compensation negotiation, licensing, and other things that fall under the collective bargaining agreement between the league and players.

The Players Association will be joined by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Madrona Venture Group, Intel, the Harvard Innovation Lab, the Sports Innovation Lab and LeadDog Marketing Group – all of which will provide things like funding, mentorship, and product and marketing support to the startups.

But the most important thing that startups will get access to will come from the Players Association itself. The NFLPA is responsible for protecting the licensing and content rights of every NFL player. So when Nike wants to put a player’s name on a jersey, or EA Sports wants to use a player’s name in a game, they need to go through the NFLPA.

And these rights are pretty hard to come by, especially for small startups with limited cash flow.

Out of more than 500 licensing deals, the NFLPA has only taken equity instead of cash just 2 or 3 times, explained Ahmad Nassar, President of NFL Players, Inc. and the OneTeam Collective board chairman. But now the NFLPA has an inventive to work with smaller startups that are part of its accelerator and provide them with access to NFL players – something most small sports technology startups can only dream of.

In return for these licensing rights the NFLPA will take an equity stake in the startup. And while they won’t directly invest cash, the partner firms like Kleiner Perkins and Madrona will most likely be able to fill that need.

The accelerator will also eschew a set timeline, instead rely on rolling admissions – something they think will help them reach a wider range of companies. However they will hold annual events to help spread the word, starting with a Pitch Day that will coincide with the Super Bowl in Houston in February for “a limited number of companies identified by its founding partners”.