In recent years, we’ve seen a bunch of NFL competitors pop up promising streamlined, quick-paced play and an alternative to an increasingly polarizing and political NFL.
While the leagues themselves have made big promises as being similar to minor league feeders or straight up competitors to the NFL, those are big promises to make.
The NFL is a billion dollar industry, a juggernaut in the sport only comparable to college football in scale and saturation into the American fabric.
The only way that these leagues can carve out their own niche is to stick to their promised identity, innovate and produce or secure NFL-quality players.
While the Alliance of American Football (AAF) isn’t a league in direct competition with the NFL, they do have some connective threads.
Alliance teams tout themselves as a feeder system to the NFL, a place for players trying to keep in shape, playing for a team and ready to be signed to an NFL roster in case of an injury.
Some current NFL upper-level management, like the LA Chargers general manager Tom Telesco, feel that the Alliance could be used similarly to minor league baseball teams.
“It’s a great idea,” Telesco told ESPN. “It has the potential to be a nice complement to the NFL. It’s a great spot for a developmental league for players, but even aside from that — coaches and front office, officiating, athletic trainers and video equipment people, public relations — all of that. So I think it’s a great place where people can develop in every department of football operations. Every department that touches a football team can get some real-life experience.”
As a place for young players to develop further after college in an organized, professional team setting or for players who might be between opportunities in the league.
Some former NFL players scattered across the league include Trent Richardson, Christian Hackenberg, Josh Johnson, Nick Novak, Matt Asiata and Bishop Sankey.
It’s yet to be seen if the league has the potential for expansion from where it is now, but it’s one of the more promising prospects as an NFL companion we’ve seen in years.
While the Alliance might be positioning itself as an NFL companion, the XFL is trying to dethrone it.
The second coming of the venture, WWE head man Vince McMahon has pitched the XFL as a league that embraces the violent hits that the NFL has worked to phase out of the game and takes a hard-line stance on political protests like kneeling during the anthem that polarized the league these past few seasons.
The XFL promises a league free of protests, where everyone stands for the national anthem, no one with any type of criminal record is allowed to play and players are free to hit one another with reckless abandon.
The key to the XFL’s success is going to be getting those NFL fans who are dissatisfied with the league for the lack of hard-hitting action or political differences to watch them instead of the NFL, a big ask for many.
In a country where football is a religion for many, carving out a segment of that dedicated population might be a mighty challenge.
Whether it’s the AAF or XFL, the alternatives to the NFL are growing. It’s a market yet to be tapped by other leagues.
Eventually, someone is going to do it but I have my doubts it will be either of these two leagues.
Ricky Williams Will Be Sparking Greatness With His Highsman x Jeeter Collab on Super Bowl Sunday
Ricky Williams made it possible for a generation of athletes to successfully challenge the NFL’s draconian prohibition of cannabis. The Heisman Trophy winner and former running back changed the perception of cannabis in the NFL, bringing in a new era in which the league has stopped drug testing players for cannabis. This paved the way for the league to recently donate $1 million to research how the plant’s medicinal properties could actually help players deal with pain and provide neuroprotection from concussion.
Williams credits smoking cannabis as a way of overcoming the challenges associated with being a professional athlete, from social anxiety to physical injuries. Since retiring from football, Williams has studied herbalism and alternative holistic therapies, intertwined with the healing properties of cannabis. His first line of cannabis wellness products, Real Wellness fused cannabis with herbal extracts like lavender and turmeric.
In 2021, Williams released his new venture, Highsman, a cannabis lifestyle brand “created to empower professional and everyday athletes as well as sports enthusiasts alike.” And a great play on words, too.
“Highsman is an appreciation for greatness and an appreciation for cannabis. When I started experimenting with it recreationally, I became very reflective and a lot of the time the things I was reflecting on didn’t feel good to me. But through that inner reflection, I started making changes in myself– I realized that there was more to me than just being a football player, and it created an urge to start developing those other sides of myself. It was, and still is, my appreciation for cannabis that helped me to realize my potential for greatness outside the game of football. “
Highsman features three curated by Williams to compliment moments in the day and put you in the zone. Pre-Game is a Sativa for an energized boost; Half-Time is a hybrid for focused awareness, and the Post-Game Indica offers a relaxed mood.
Just in time for Super Bowl LVI, Highsman has teamed up with Jeeter, the number one cannabis pre-roll brand in the country, on a limited-edition run of cannabis and apparel products.
Cannabis Aficionado caught up with Williams for a quick huddle to find out what the iconic athlete will be doing this Super Bowl Sunday.
CA: What brought on your partnership with Jeeter?
We partnered with Jeeter because they are a brand at the top of their game. Their dedication to greatness makes them an ideal partner for Highsman. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that, aside from Highsman, Jeeter is one of my top choices when I visit the dispensary.
Where are you watching the Superbowl and who with?
I am watching the Superbowl at the Jeeter house in LA with Jeeter co-founders Sebastian Solano and Lukasz Tracz, and the amazing Highsman team including CEO Eric Hammond and Marketing Director Lane Radbill.
What are you smoking?
Sticky Ricky from the Highsman x Jeeter collab!
What are you eating and drinking?
I eat light pregame… a fruit smoothie, yogurt, assorted fruit, and a little honey.
What were your pre-game rituals?
I had a whole meditation routine. 12 sun salutations, pranayama, twin hearts meditation (heart-opening meditation), and then off to the stadium.
Who do you think will win Superbowl LVI?
I’m just hoping for a good game, but I picked the Rams to win in the Highsman bracket challenge, so I’m going to root for the home team.
Find your nearest Highsman x Jeeter stockist here.
Tom Brady Is Officially Retiring from the NFL
Tom Brady has announced his retirement from the NFL, writing on Instagram on Tuesday that he is “not going to make that competitive commitment anymore.”
“I have always believed the sport of football is an ‘all-in’ proposition — if a 100% competitive commitment isn’t there, you won’t succeed, and success is what I love so much about our game,” Brady said in his statement on Instagram. “There is a physical, mental and emotional challenge EVERY single day that has allowed me to maximize my highest potential. And I have tried my very best these past 22 years. There are no shortcuts to success on the field or in life.
“This is difficult for me to write, but here it goes: I am not going to make that competitive commitment anymore. I have loved my NFL career, and now it is time to focus my time and energy on other things that require my attention. I’ve done a lot of reflecting the past week and have asked myself difficult questions. And I am so proud of what we have achieved. My teammates, coaches, fellow competitors, and fans deserve 100% of me, but right now, it’s best I leave the field of play to the next generation of dedicated and committed athletes.”
Brady’s announcement comes three days after it was originally reported that he would be hanging up his illustrious cleats. Brady had yet to officially commit one way or the other, insisting on “going through the process” during his most recent appearance on his podcast. The outcome of that process was announced on Tuesday.
The legendary sportsman retires after an astounding 22 NFL seasons, 20 with the Patriots and two with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in which he had the most individual success of any player in NFL history. Tom Brady was a 15-time Pro Bowler, three-time AP MVP, three-time first-team All-Pro, and the all-time leader in passing yards, passing touchdowns, and quarterback victories.
High Fighting: Jiu-Jitsu Meets Cannabis
The relationship between recreational marijuana and sports has historically been contentious, and MMA leagues in the United States are no exception. Because of how long weed lingers in the bloodstream, many fighters who follow the rule of not smoking during competitive periods nonetheless test positive. Superstar UFC athletes who have tested positive for marijuana (like Nick Diaz) have faced harsh penalties, including fines and even suspensions or bans from competition, thanks to this law.
High Rollerz co-founders Matt Staudt and Big Lonn Howard have chosen to put together a cannabis-infused jiu-jitsu tournament where some of the sport’s elite athletes get high with their opponent before competing – and where the winner’s grand prise is a pound of pot.
Peep the Vice documentary below.