As has been the case with many businesses and individuals who aligned themselves and their money with the cryptocurrency market, the National Women’s Soccer League has seen its deal with a crypto company blow up in its face and is now dealing with the financial fallout.
After signing a multi-year sponsorship, one of the league’s largest, with cryptocurrency exchange Voyager Digital in December, the NWSL and its players’ fund created accounts on the platform’s app for each player. Voyager, which also partnered with the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, MLB’s Oakland A’s and retired NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski, was then supposed to deposit an unspecified amount of cryptocurrency into each player’s individual account on its app.
“I’m thrilled to welcome Voyager to the NWSL’s growing list of partners, each of whom offers our clubs and players crucial support as we continue to build a league where the world’s best players compete,” NWSL interim CEO Marla Messing said at the time. “Voyager’s investment in the league is especially innovative because we’ve collectively designed the partnership to include direct financial resources for every one of our players, as well as education on the revolutionary changes underway in digital assets.”
Unfortunately for the NWSL players and their bank accounts, Voyager Digital filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month due to “prolonged volatility and contagion” and suspended all withdrawals and trading. Per the July filing, Voyager estimated it had more than 100,000 creditors and between $1 billion and $10 billion in assets with an equal amount of liabilities.
According to Sportico, Voyager’s bankruptcy filing has now resulted in the NWSL warning its players that they could be out money as the platform has yet to provide funds for the crypto account and it’s not yet clear whether the players will receive the money they were originally allotted to receive. (Note, that’s “out money” not “out of money.”)
“Now that Voyager is entering voluntary Chapter 11, it’s unclear how much money — if any — the players will actually see,” per Sportico. “Half of the value of the deal was set to be paid to the league in cash, while the other half was for individual athletes to invest in crypto through the platform.”
Per a league statement, getting paid via cryptocurrency was always a risk. “The Player Fund was always intended to be distributed into accounts at Voyager in cryptocurrency, with the goal of educating players regarding investment in the crypto space,” the statement said. “As such, there was always risk regarding the volatility of the cryptocurrency market.”
While that may be true, it’s still an unfortunate development and a bad look for a league that has shown potential.