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Episode 96 of the Leaders Sport Business Podcast – brought to you in partnership with Onside Law – features a conversation with two current NFL athletes: Michael Thomas, a safety for the Houston Texans, and Brandon Copeland, linebacker for the New England Patriots (discussion begins at 14:02). They’ve been in the league for eight and seven years respectively, and both play active leadership roles in the NFL Players union – the NFLPA.
In fact, Michael and Brandon are high achieving examples of what the NFLPA calls #AthleteAnd – a programme of activity that helps NFL athletes build businesses and interests away from the field of play and to define themselves as more than an athlete. Both players have numerous business interests, charitable endeavours, and qualifications – Brandon is even a professor of financial literacy – and we delve into all of that, as well as the fight for racial justice that is playing out across the front line of sport.
Before that though, we speak to Sophie Wilkinson, partner at our partners at Onside Law, to set the scene briefly from this side of the Atlantic, to reflect on some of the major issues athletes are experiencing as sport stutters back, and to look at where flexibility and an open mindset have paid dividends.
“When you look at the first game in Kansas City, and you went out there and you locked arms, and people booed. They just booed a moment of unity and togetherness. That shows right there that we cannot let right and wrong be stifled by what is ‘acceptable’.” Brandon Copeland, New England Patriots
On the conversational agenda:
– Flexibility in endorsement contract options and partnership opportunities;
– The fight for racial justice and how the mood has shifted among the players in the NFL;
– Taking the opportunities presented by the players union;
– Setting up systems to spread and filter the education and benefits that come from the NFL down through communities;
– Leveraging your status as an athlete to get calls returned, emails answered, and businesses set for the future;
– The experience of playing in front of empty stadiums;
– The biggest mistakes Michael and Brandon ever made.
“But the temperature is different now and I love it, and I just want to push it forward, keep it going and create real change.” Michael Thomas, Houston Texans