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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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PGA Tour Golfer Matt Every Suspended Over Medical Cannabis Use

A statement released on Friday confirms that Matt Every has a 3-month suspension for violating the Tour’s conduct policy on drugs of abuse.

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Matt Every Suspended
PHOTO | Orrios

The PGA has confirmed that professional golfer, Matt Every, has been suspended for 12 weeks, due to a violation of its Conduct Policy on drugs of abuse, effective from Friday, October 19.

Every will be eligible to return January 7 and will miss only three tournaments for which he would have been eligible — the Bermuda Championship, the Mayakoba Classic in Mexico and the RSM Classic at Sea Island.

In a statement sent to GolfChannel.com, Every confirmed he has tested positive for cannabis, but it was a legal prescription — prescribed in Florida, where he resides — to treat his mental health.

“I have been prescribed cannabis for a mental health condition by my physician whom has managed my medical care for 30 years,” Every said. “It has been determined that I am neither an acceptable candidate to use prescription “Z” class drugs nor benzodiazepines.

“Additionally, these classes of drugs can be highly addictive and harmful to the human body and mind. For me, cannabis has proven to be, by far, the safest and most effective treatment.”

Being aware of the Tour’s policy before he violated it, the 35-year-old said he has “no choice but to accept this suspension and move on.”

“I knew what WADA’s [World Anti-Doping Agency] policy was and I violated it,” Every said. “I don’t agree with it for many reasons, mainly for my overall well-being, but I’m excited for what lies ahead in my life and career. Over the last few years I have made massive strides and I know my best is still in front of me. I can’t wait to come back better than ever in January.”

The two-times Tour winner is now the seventh player to be suspended under the Tour’s policy against drugs of abuse that was implemented in 2008. It follows the three-month ban of Robert Garrigus in March of this year.

Despite being medically and recreationally legal in many states, cannabis is still listed as a banned substance under the Tour’s anti-doping policy.

The Tour said it would have no further comment on the suspension.

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CBD Sponsorship of Professional Motocross Takes Another Step Forward

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CBD Sponsorship
PHOTO | Garth Milan/Red Bull Content Pool

CBD sponsorship is making moves in professional motocross and supercross, once again, after progress stalled in early 2019.

For those living under a rock, CBD aka cannabidiol is one of over a hundred cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. But, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD doesn’t offer a high. The latter’s strengths are helping to treat serious conditions such as epilepsy, to controlling anxiety, helping manage pain, aid in muscle recovery, better sleep and overall wellness.

Certain attributes — such as recovery, sleep and overall wellness — has seen professional athletes add CBD to training programs. That has seen the rise of cannabis advocates in a wide scope of sports, whether stick-and-ball (like hockey, football and baseball), through to action sports that sit out of the mainstream (like MMA and motocross).

It has also seen an influx of cannabis advocates, like MMA’s Bas Rutten and motocross stars Carey Hart and Chad Reed, all using that ‘legend’ status in each sport to help educate fans and followers about the benefits of CBD.

While the likes of Hart and Reed continue to share their belief in CBD on social media, it only goes so far in motocross, with its use and marketing leading to controversy in the pro motocross racing scene.

 

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There was no problem with racers being sponsored and supported by CBD companies until February 2019, which was when supported athletes were censored during broadcasts of Monster Energy AMA Supercross. The ban prohibited the logos of CBD companies, enforced by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) after it was brought to the attention of Feld Motor Sports, the promoter of the series.

The problem was not the use of CBD by the athletes, but the two logos of CBD brands — Ignite and cbdMD — visible on bikes and riders during broadcasts on NBC. The first to be censored was Dean Wilson, who was told to cover the Ignite logos, followed by Chad Reed being forced to censor the cbdMD logos on his helmet.

There were inconsistencies with the ban and censorship, depending on where the racing took place (such as Texas, where CBD is still not legal). To add more confusion, both the AMA and The Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) allows racers to use CBD since it is not on the prohibited list of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

But There Has Been Progress

The AMA posted a bulletin that outlines how CBD will be handled in 2020 and beyond.

Again, these steps are related to the displaying of logos at the races, whether in the pits, on the bike or the gear (especially if seen during television broadcasts).

Due to recent changes in state laws, limited hemp-based cannabidiol “CBD” product sponsorships at certain onsite event locations during the upcoming 2020 Supercross season will be allowed subject to the following requirements and restrictions contained herein.

But there are requirements to the eligibility, with the “CBD products must be derived from hemp and contain less than .3% THC,” and “any logos or signage that include or relate to cannabis are prohibited.” Of course, “CBD product sponsorships are void in whole or in part wherever prohibited by law.”

That means signage or promotional displays for CBD related products are to be permitted in the pit areas of the 2020 series. But the distribution or sale of any CBD related products or samples would be strictly prohibited.

The broadcast restrictions are still uncertain. For now, the AMA states that “no rider, team or sponsor should assume that any promotional displays of CBD product on the track that may be captured by the broadcast will be allowed until further notice.” That means riders will run the risk of the being censored or removed from competition.

These policies will remain in effect until further notice. But the AMA has stated the policies are “not intended to be all-inclusive and may be amended, appended, or rescinded in whole or in part at any time for any reason without advance notice.”

The real question is should professional athletes making more from sponsorship than purse money have further censorship due to prior restraint?

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Former Patriots Star Rob Gronkowski Enters CBD Game

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Rob Gronkowski
PHOTO | CBDMEDIC

If there’s one thing football fans know for sure, it’s that former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is always up to something.

Whether it’s partying on a boat, dominating on the gridiron or appearing in another commercial, the guy sure knows how to keep busy.

Now, after the five-time Pro Bowler and three-time Super Bowl winner retired at the age of 30 last offseason, he’s back in the public spotlight. This time, he’s getting into the CBD business.

Gronk signed on with Rhode Island-based Abacus Health Products, giving him a stake in the company and making him the face of a line of products set to be revealed in early 2020.

While there’s surely a business component to this partnership, Gronk insists he decided to get involved with CBD products after personally seeing the impact they can have on pain, telling the press he was “blown away with how well it worked. I am pain-free, and that is a big deal.”

“[The injuries] took an absolute beating on my mind and my soul. I was hurt both mentally and physically, day in and day out,” Gronk said. “I decided to walk away from the game for one reason: I had to recover.”

Recovery was a prime concern for Gronk after his retirement. After dealing with near-constant injuries nine surgeries during his illustrious pro football career, Gronk talked about the need to rest, recharge and help his body recover from the beating it takes during games.

“I’m advocating for CBD to be acceptable for all players for recovery,” Gronk said during a press conference. “You can just call me Mr. Recovery. You know you like that name. Mr. Recovery, baby.”

Gronk recalled a stretch in time after a Super Bowl victory where despite playing a great game and winning a championship, it paid a tremendous toll on his body.

“I was in tears in my bed after a Super Bowl victory. It didn’t make much sense to me,” said Gronkowski. “I couldn’t sleep for more than 20 minutes a night, after a Super Bowl win. And I was like damn, this sucks. It didn’t feel right.”

While Gronk didn’t completely close the door on his NFL career, teasing fans with the possibility of a comeback depending on how his body feels, he made it clear he wouldn’t come back unless the NFL changed its tune on CBD for athlete recovery.

“To come back, they’re going to have to legalize CBD in the NFL,” he said. “No matter what I say, people are still going to say I’m coming back —so, I’m coming back, but I’m not.”

While the NFL has yet to lift its rigid ban on CBD products, as the UFC has, the science is on the athlete’s side. CBD has a proven impact on pain management and athlete recovery that simply can’t be denied at this point. With the recent trend of elite NFL athletes like Gronk and former Colts quarterback Andrew Luck hanging up their cleats early due to countless injuries and never-ending rehab, the NFL might want to consider natural pain-management solutions like CBD.

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