NFLPA Takes Stake in Daily Fantasy Purveyor Monkey Knife Fight

Posted on: October 30, 2020, 11:24h. 

Last updated on: October 30, 2020, 02:45h.

The NFL Players Association (NFLPA), the labor union for the league’s athletes, is capitalizing on its strongest currency, its members. It is taking a financial stake in daily fantasy sports (DFS) operator Monkey Knife Fight (MKF).

Monkey Knife Fight
NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith. The players union took a financial stake in Monkey Knife Fight. (Image: USA Today)

The financial terms of the transaction weren’t disclosed. California-based MKF is closely held and its early investors include private equity firm The Jordan Company. The NFLPA is working with OneTeam Partners to invest in MKF. Founded by the NFLPA, Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), and RedBird Capital Partners, OneTeam helps athletes maximize financial opportunities related to images, likenesses, and personal brands.

The multi-year deal includes a long-term licensing agreement, joint marketing commitment, and significant player involvement in a broad assortment of MKF’s activities. Monkey Knife Fight is the official licensee of the NFLPA in daily fantasy sports,” according to a statement.

Founded in 2018 by Bill Asher, co-owner of adult entertainment behemoth Vivid Entertainment, MKF is a rarity in the DFS and online sports betting universe in that the company is already profitable, something rival DraftKings can’t yet claim.

Busy Time for MKF

News of the NFLPA deal arrives less than two months after MKF said it’s acquiring rival FantasyDraft, a move that solidifies its position as the third-largest DFS company behind DraftKings and FanDuel. Earlier this year, the company said it’s in discussion with Silicon Valley venture firms and Wall Street players regarding investments in the firm.

MKF’s relationship with the NFLPA is practical because the DFS company already has agreements with at least two other NFL teams. Those teams are the Los Angeles Chargers and the Miami Dolphins. Those accords highlight the operator’s strategy, which focuses on establishing brand recognition and an avid user base in large states — California, Texas, and Florida, among others — in advance of those states legalizing sports wagering.

It’s a template that was laid for MKF by competitors DraftKings and FanDuel, which leveraged DFS brand awareness into becoming dominant online sports betting juggernauts as more states approved the activity. However, MKF’s focus on the state “holy trinity” of sports wagering is somewhat unique simply because it could be several years before either of those three approve sports betting.

California is likely to be first, and that’s assuming voters in 2022 approve a proposition backed by tribal gaming entities, which would set the stage for the first legitimate bets to be placed in 2023 at the earliest.

Beating Rivals to the Punch

MKF may be smaller than its aforementioned foes, but it did beat them to an agreement with the NFLPA, becoming the union’s official licensee in DFS.

For the operator, the move makes sense because, after all, DFS is predicated on real players, something other firms in the space haven’t always tapped into.

“Professional athletes have historically been under-leveraged by DFS companies despite athletes being the predicate for these games’ existence,” said OneTeam CEO Ahmad Nassar.