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Can NFL Competitors Like the AAF and the XFL Be Successful?

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NFL Competitors
PHOTO | Adobe Stock

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.

Some notable alternatives include the Alliance of American Football and the XFL, one of which just kicked off its inaugural season and the other set to go in 2020.

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.

AAF

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.

The XFL

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.

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Mike Tyson Is Newest Fan-Controlled Football League Owner

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Fan-Controlled Football League
PHOTO | FCFL

When it comes to rebrands, there are few more complete and monumental than that of Mike Tyson.

It’s hard to believe that the former heavyweight champ of a brutally violent sport like boxing, sporting facial tattoos before it was a common hip-hop trend and most known for biting off his opponent’s ears and knocking people out in 12 seconds is now a touring entertainer, pigeon trainer and best part of hit comedy film “The Hangover.

It’s fair to say that Tyson’s change from one of the most feared, baddest men on the planet to entrepreneur and entertainer has been an on-going story of feel-good redemption.

More recently, Tyson made the leap into the cannabis space with his ultra-extravagant, 40-acres cannabis resort Tyson Ranch set to be ready in 2020 and has a hit on his hands with his HotBoxin podcast where he talks with superstars like Vic Mensa, Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg while smoking up. Plus his soon to be released line of cannabis strains and CBD wellness products.

Now the former heavyweight champ has announced his partnership with the Fan-Controlled Football League (FCFL) as an owner.

The FCFL is the first-ever real-world sports league where the fans are fully in charge, calling in plays via an app and relayed directly into the quarterback’s helmet. Fans will be able to pick every aspect of the team from their name, to their logos, coaches and even players.

On top of that, the league is partnered with Twitch to stream exclusively, letting fans watch live and get in on the action from any Twitch-compatible device.

Tyson joins the likes of both current and former pro athletes like Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman and Chad Ochocinco as a team’s owner along with entertainers like singer and songwriter Prince Royce, radio personality Bobby Bones and YouTube gaming comedy group Kinda Funny.

When asked why he wanted to get involved with the FCFL, Tyson was clear about his intentions to make his team a force for years to come.

“I’m pleased to come on board as the owner of the newest Fan-Controlled Football League team. I’m excited to work with the fans to create the Baddest League on the Planet. My team is looking forward to demolishing our ‘competition.’” Tyson said.

Tyson elaborated further on his goals for the team in a brief video message to his fans, saying he’s looking for players who are elite both on the intellectual and physical perspective.

After all, when it comes to winning championships and dominating a sport, there are few finer role models than Iron Mike himself.

The FCFL is thrilled to have Tyson on board in the owner’s box.

“We are reinventing the sport of football for the digital age and a cultural phenomenon like Iron Mike could not be a better fit for this league,” said co-founder and Chief Gaming Officer Patrick Dees. “We are impossibly excited for him to bring his unparalleled energy, legendary smack talk, and unrivaled will to win to the FCFL. The man is a total badass and there is zero doubt in my mind that Team Tyson is going to be a force to be reckoned with in our first season. And I for one, CAN NOT WAIT to watch him stream his games on Twitch.”

With a literal heavyweight like Tyson on board, the Fan-Controlled Football League is bound to be as exciting as one of Iron Mike’s legendary bouts.

Let’s hope the games last longer than those fights, however.

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Aurora & UFC Are Researching the Benefits of CBD for MMA Fighters

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UFC
PHOTO | dusanpetkovic1

Sometimes you can clearly see how much progress has been made with breaking the stigma around cannabis. Only a few years ago, Nate Diaz threw the mixed martial arts community into a frenzy by openly hitting a vape filled with CBD oil on stage during his post-match interview with Conor McGregor. 

“It’s CBD,” Diaz told the press when asked about the device. “It helps with the healing process and inflammation, stuff like that. So you want to get these for before and after the fights, training. It’ll make your life a better place.”

While Diaz was absolutely right about the anti-inflammatory and pain management benefits of CBD, that didn’t stop the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), USADA and UFC anti-doping from collectively losing their shit over it. 

Diaz was facing a suspension and a possible ban from the sport similar to his older brother Nick. 

Today, things look much, much different when it comes to CBD. 

After the WADA removed CBD from their banned substances list about a year ago, the UFC has now penned a multi-year, multi-million dollar partnership with Aurora Cannabis Inc. to research the health benefits of CBD for MMA fighters. 

The studies will test out the effects of hemp-derived CBD for wound-healing, pain management, inflammation control and overall recovery on top-class MMA athletes over the next eight years.  

The research will be conducted in the UFC’s own Performance Institute in Las Vegas, testing the effects on athletes who volunteer to participate in the study by Institute staff. Aurora’s research will be led by Dr. Jason Dyck, a professor at the University of Alberta, a Canada Research Chair in Molecular Medicine and an independent director on the board at Aurora Cannabis. 

In a statement, officials for both UFC and Aurora expressed their excitement over the partnership. 

“This partnership with Aurora is an extension of that goal, and we’re looking forward to collaborating with Aurora to find new ways to improve the health and safety of athletes who compete in UFC,” said UFC President Dana White.

Terry Booth, CEO of Aurora added, “This global partnership places focus squarely on the health and well-being of UFC’s talented and highly trained athletes. The Aurora-UFC research partnership creates a global platform to launch targeted educational and awareness campaigns, while creating numerous opportunities to accelerate our global CBD business.”

White told the press at a joint press conference between the two he believes about half of all elite athletes use some sort of CBD-based product for recovery that this partnership will make sure those products are safe and authentic, paving the way for future products will help prevent the use “untested CBD treatments,” and will be used during practice, before and after a match. 

“The focus is going to be on research, safety, health, and the well being of our athletes,” White said.

It’s well-known how many big-name UFC athletes have been open and clear about their support of not only CBD-based products for recovery but cannabis as a whole. This new partnership could open the doors to more athletes exploring natural, opiate-free alternatives than ever before without the fear of sanctions, suspensions and punishment in one of the most brutal sports around. 

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Sports

Equal Pay Fight Proves the USWNT Isn’t Finished Making History

Fresh from winning their record-breaking fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup title, the USWNT is fighting for equal pay, sending a message to women everywhere.

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PHOTO | luzitanija

The United States women’s national soccer team (USWNT) made history last week by winning their fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup title. This was the team’s record-breaking second straight and most of any women’s national team. Their performance was one for the ages, tearing through their competition in dominating fashion and earning a Best Team Award at the ESPYS.

Now, even as a championship parade rolls through New York City and stars from the USWNT like Meagan Repino and Alex Morgan go on the talk show circuit, all anyone can talk about is the dollars and cents of it all.

USWNT Demand Equal Pay for Equal Play

USWNT

PHOTO | Courtesy @CarliLloyd

The wage gap between the men’s and women’s national team players in the US has long been a point of debate.

Back in March, on International Women’s Day, no less, 28 members of the USWNT, including Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe, filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

“I think a lot of people look to us and our team and the collective voice that we have and what we’ve stood for, for inspiration and for power, and as an ally in this broader fight for equality and human rights, really,” said winger Megan Rapinoe at the time.

Before this year’s competition kicked off, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer made a point of reminding people about that pay gap.

“The women make just as much of a sacrifice, put in just as much mental and physical energy, absorb just as much risk of injury as the men who play for our national team,” said Schumer. “Yet, when you break it down, a women’s national soccer team player earns a base salary of $3,600 per game while a men’s player earns $5,000.”

Compounding the issue, USWNT players also earn much smaller World Cup bonuses than the males, a measly $15,000 compared to $55,000. The prime example is with the U.S. Soccer Federation itself, awarding the men’s team a $5.4 million bonus for losing in the Round of 16 while the women received only $1.7 million for winning the whole tournament in 2015.

So, in summary, the team that’s actually winning tournaments is making far less than the team losing them.

“Discrimination staring us all in the face,” Schumer said. “These women, who inspire our country with their poise, tenacity, skill and excellence every time they take the field deserve to be fairly compensated.”

If you take the “equal pay” chants from the World Cup crowd following the USWNT’s win and during a recent U.S. Soccer press conference, it’s clear where public opinion falls. U.S. Soccer president Carlos Cordeiro had to pause during his address to the crowd during the champion ceremony in New York City on Wednesday due to the chanting.

Now the Politicians Want to Play

Now, even more politicians have thrown their hats into the ring to push the issue.

More than 50 members of Congress wrote to U.S. Soccer looking to address the pay disparity, while Sen. Joe Manchin introduced a bill this week that would withhold federal funding from the upcoming 2026 Men’s World Cup set to be co-hosted in the U.S. unless some action was taken to fix it.

“The clear unequitable pay between the U.S. men and women’s soccer teams is unacceptable and I’m glad the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team latest victory is causing public outcry,” Manchin said in a statement. “I’m encouraging everyone to call their Senator and Representatives to help us get this bill passed and finally pay the equitable pay they deserve.”

If the bill passes and the federal government decides not to play ball with FIFA, it could be a major stumbling block for the upcoming tournament. The State Department, for example, needs to provide visa waivers and such for visiting FIFA officials and host cities need the money to build up infrastructure and book security for matches.

Like it or not, this conversation is nowhere near over. While the U.S. Women’s team won’t be booking their tickets to the White House anytime soon, they’ve certainly caught the attention of lawmakers in one way or another these past few weeks.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Megan Rapinoe shared her must-haves for traveling. Along with her work out gear, CBD is right up there to help make traveling easier.

“I usually have CBD drops of some kind so I can just relax with all the travel. I use it as an overall health benefit. I usually take it at night or I definitely will take it if I’m going on a long flight. We have to be kind of careful with how much THC is in those. Sometimes, at a competition they don’t really test for it, but then they will. So you have to be careful. Select is a good one; they have just a pure CBD line.”

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