Thanks to a new wrinkle in the latest NBA CBA, active players can now become sportsbook ambassadors.
Even though Florida sports betting isn’t legal yet, players like Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Paolo Banchero could represent some of the country’s top sports betting operators.
The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association agreed on a new seven-year collective bargaining agreement on April 1. Most talks around the deal swirled around the luxury tax, load management and an in-season tournament.
But tucked away in the headlines comes the part where active players can become ambassadors for both sports betting operators and cannabis companies. Without getting too into the weeds, let’s focus on the gambling aspect of the deal.
New NBA CBA lets players become sportsbook ambassadors
The new endorsement opportunities go into effect next season. Until then, active players, coaches, team executives and referees weren’t allowed to have any sports gambling sponsorships.
The full collective bargaining agreement document has not yet been released. And there will still likely be plenty of tweaking when it comes to the language of certain clauses.
Shams Charania, who works for The Athletic, Stadium and FanDuel TV highlighted an important part of the deal. Sportsbook endorsements must have “complete separation from (the) gambling component,” according to the NBA insider.
How this will work, sources say: Players will be able to invest in NBA/WNBA teams via NBPA’s selected Private Equity firm, an unprecedented opportunity in U.S. pro sports – and do endorsement deals with sports betting companies, with complete separation from gambling component. https://t.co/6iMGPPWYgD
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 2, 2023
The tweet’s verbiage caused more head scratching than praise. Time will tell how exactly the new ambassador opportunities will be policed.
It’s not out of this world for non-NBA players to be sportsbook ambassadors
One of the NHL’s biggest stars, Connor McDavid, has a sponsorship deal with BetMGM. The Edmonton Oiler star’s deal marked the first of its kind among professional athletes in the four major North American sports.
Shortly after McDavid’s deal, Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon inked one of his own. Blackmon became the first active MLB player to boast a sportsbook deal, making history with a MaximBet partnership. MaximBet has since shuttered its sports betting operations.
Could Florida’s ban on sports betting impact the new player sponsorship avenue?
This is where things could get tricky. Again, we still don’t have the full CBA document. And there’s plenty of refining needed, so we can only speculate at this point.
We don’t know for sure if there are any restrictions on player sportsbook sponsorships if they play for a team residing in a state that does not allow sports betting. Maybe the league will allow it across the country just to even the playing field, or it could come down to a state-by-state approach.
For a brief period, there was online sports betting in Florida. In 2021, the Seminole Tribe began accepting online sports bets through its Hard Rock sportsbook app. That app launched on Nov. 1, but after a federal judge ruled that a new 30-year compact between the state and tribe violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the tribe shut down its sportsbook on Dec. 4.
Now, there’s a chance things could change at some point soon. The federal government is appealing the ruling and the Seminole Tribe filed a motion for limited intervention. If the DC Court of Appeals grants the motion, the tribe would likely get the case thrown out of court, citing its sovereign status.
PlayFL’s legal expert John Holden said the DOI’s argument was shaky at best. He believes the Seminole Tribe winning its motion would be the most likely path for sports betting in the Sunshine State. Until then, it’s all a waiting game.
It’s worth noting that casino gambling is legal in Florida.
If NBA players in Florida can become sportsbook ambassadors, who would be a likely candidate?
Out of players on Florida’s two teams (the Heat and Magic), Miami’s Jimmy Butler remains the obvious candidate. Butler boasts a handful of endorsements such as Li-Ning and Beats by Dre. Butler is an outspoken guy and does not shy away from the spotlight, so he should be any sportsbook’s No. 1 choice.
Outside of Butler, another Miami Heat candidate could be Tyler Herro. Herro is of the league’s “new age” players and came up during the rise of Instagram and other social media. He’s recognizable by almost all young fans, and that could play a factor in a sportsbook wanting to add a younger demographic to its arsenal. Currently, Herro has a deal with Nike.
If you’re searching for a candidate from the Magic, look no further than Paolo Banchero. The 2022 No. 1 overall pick, Banchero is a lock to win Rookie of the Year. If a sportsbook wants to choose an up-and-coming player to be an ambassador, there is no better rookie from the 2022 class than the Orlando Magic player.
Former Orlando Magic, Miami Heat star Shaquille O’Neal has his own sportsbook deal
Shaquille O’Neal, who dominated for the Magic in the 1990s before winning a title with the Heat in 2006, inked a deal as an ambassador for WynnBet in 2021. He also filed a trademark for the phrase “SHAQPOT.”
“Mobile sports betting is having a major movement, and I believe that WynnBET will be a powerful force in the industry,” he said at the time.
This new NBA CBA wrinkle makes sense for players, even if sports betting isn’t legal in every state
The NBA’s history shows a clear apprehension toward gambling.
Tim Donaghy stands as the most obvious example. A judge sentenced the former NBA referee to 15 months in prison thanks to his involvement in a betting scandal. Plenty of that outcry came from the 2022 Western Conference Finals between the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers. Donaghy’s attorney said there were other referees involved in the gambling side of infamous game, but then-commissioner David Stern denied the allegations.
At the time of Donaghy’s investigation and subsequent prison sentencing, the league would have never thought to partner with sportsbooks. But that was roughly two decades ago.
Now, the league has its own deal with both DraftKings and FanDuel. Those operators are the league’s co-official sports betting partners. And that partnership trickled down, too. Most teams in the league have their own sports betting sponsorships. The Miami Heat have a deal with Betway and the Orlando Magic have a deal with FanDuel.
All that’s left is for players to have their own deals. Again, it will be tricky when it comes to hashing out the specific language of those deals, considering Charania’s tweet indicated a need for separation from the gambling aspect. But considering the teams and the league itself has sports betting sponsors, it makes sense for the players to cash in as well.