Empowering Players with Data Ownership
Earlier this week, WHOOP and the NFL Players Association announced a groundbreaking deal to make the WHOOP Strap 2.0 the Officially Licensed Recovery Wearable of the NFLPA.
Ahmad Nassar, President of NFL Players Inc., the licensing and marketing department of the NFLPA, spoke about the partnership on ESPN Radio:
“It’s frankly one of my favorite type of deals because it’s not just about making money for players, or with players, it’s a holistic deal. … As a pro athlete, [WHOOP] can help you train better and smarter and be more prepared for game day. And as you’re transitioning out of the NFL, or any other pro league, it can help you stay healthy, or get healthy.”
Many NFL players are already fans of WHOOP (Examples “A” and “B” via social media), regardless of the potential monetary benefits. Chargers Pro-Bowler Darrell Stuckey has been wearing a Strap since last fall and raves about it.
Diamond Leung of SportTechie discussed other players’ interest:
“During a recent NFL Players Association reps meeting, WHOOP straps were handed out so that the players in attendance could be introduced to the product. Cleveland Browns defensive back Ibraheim Campbell hasn’t stopped using the wearable device since then.
‘I don’t take it off,’ Campbell said. ‘It’s pretty cool. I’ve seen my awareness of myself and how I’m doing increase. It’s been big on my sleep awareness and sleeping habits.’”
But as can be expected, it’s the financial aspect of the WHOOP and NFLPA partnership that’s driving the headlines:
Lee Igel of Forbes wrote “It isn’t a surprise that the sports business, in this day and age, would get around to the prospects of monetizing athletes’ physiological data. A company doesn’t need to be Google, Apple, or Samsung—among the brand-name heavyweights in the activity tracking game—to know that Big Data is big business. Many NFL players will likely be keen on becoming “healthier and wealthier” through the NFLPA relationship with WHOOP.”
What stands out in this case is that it’s the players, not the league, who will own the rights to the data:
ESPN’s Kevin Seifert expanded on this notion:
“Even at the dawn of the wearable technology era, NFL receiver Andrew Hawkins could see where it was all headed. There would come a day, Hawkins said, when player evaluation and even contract negotiations would hinge on the presumably objective data collected from chips inserted in shoulder pads for practices and games. … ‘It’s a matter of time before it gets here,’ Hawkins said in 2015, when he played for the Cleveland Browns. ‘You just have to hope there is a balance.’
Indeed, the NFL Players Association appears to have produced an equalizer of sorts … This will provide players with their own data — information they own and have the right to sell and distribute as they wish — to push back against the NFL’s accumulation of its own data.”
Compared to athletes in other major professional sports leagues, NFL players have a much smaller window to set themselves up financially. Joe Lemire of Vocativ went into further detail:
“In the NFL, however, this has the makings of a beneficial partnership. Careers are already short with few truly guaranteed contracts, so players should try to snare every last dollar they can out of their time in the league. And there’ll be demand for this information. … Even better are the aggregate uses—the collection and tabulation of dozens or hundreds of players could produce fruitful research in crafting training and travel schedules to maximize performance and sleep—and the individual ones that might one day show up on a TV broadcast.”
Others speculated on what might be next:
With WHOOP recently being approved for in-game use in Major League Baseball as well, Brett Pollakoff of Fox Sports sat down with Founder and CEO Will Ahmed to discuss WHOOP in the NBA. Part of what Ahmed said applies across all sports:
“I think that you should be empowering the players to really understand their bodies. This is an opportunity for players to better understand their bodies, be healthier, have longer careers. And that’s really something that I think the players, the teams and the fans all benefit from.”
For more, watch Ahmed’s recent appearance on Bloomberg TV: