It’s no secret that playing pro football takes a serious toll on the human body, leading most professional football players to retire by the age of 35. With an average career lasting eight years, there’s a significant number of highly trained professional competitors looking for a new application of their talents. Considering the number of pro athletes that have found their way into pro gaming, it should come as no surprise that the same trend applies for their retired counterparts. Now, with a recent partnership between Pro Football Retired Players Association (PFRPA) and the Los Angeles-based Thunder Studios, a number of these fine competitors are getting a second shot at going pro.
The PFRPA hosted its first Gridiron Gaming Tournament in June of 2019 as a crossover event that allowed football fans and esports fans to come together and interact with some of their favorite retired athletes. At the same time, the event functioned to establish the Gridiron Gaming Initiative as a way for these former pro athletes to dive into the realm of pro gaming, and introduce themselves as competitors in a new arena.
While last year’s tournament was hosted at the Mavs Gaming Hub in Dallas, the new partnership with Thunder Gaming is likely to change the venue for future tournaments. Although Thunder Studios is based in Los Angeles, their goal is to further establish the Gridiron Gaming tournaments to include both physical and online events that will use Twitch to broadcast live to audiences all over the world. Combining the high profile and built-in fan base of these retired NFL players with Thunder Gaming’s experience in esports is an exciting prospect. With tournaments set to feature cash prize pools for the competitors, original programming, and interactive experiences for fans, Thunder Studios is sure to benefit—as much as their PFRPA partners—from a new and expanded generation-bridging demographic.
This isn’t the first time that the Pro Football Retired Players Association has collaborated with other organizations to provide its members with opportunities for new revenue. A partnership with WME-IMG (William Morris Endeavor Entertainment-International Management Group) led to the development of the Football Greats Alliance, or FGA. FGA is an independent licensing agency committed to handling the publicity rights of retired football players. Publicity rights matter a lot for a former pro athlete who no longer have the income from actively competing in traditional sports and for some may be their only source of revenue.
The Pro Football Retired Players Association was founded as a result of a 2013 legal settlement with the NFL that deemed there should be an organization supporting retired NFL players. Since its establishment, PFRPA has created charitable foundations such as the Greater Good Fund, provided access to health insurance for retired players as well as educational opportunities. Thunder Studios is a vertically integrated production company that is able to handle all of their programming endeavors in-house. Their partnership is an example of two specialized organizations coming together to form a bridge between traditional sports and esports as well as between different generations. Considering the presumptive youth-skewed demographics of some of the biggest names in esports, an influx of literal retirees into the competitive arena is sure to shake things up.