The new NBA collective bargaining agreement (CBA) gives players a chance to cash in on previously illegal sponsorships.
The agreement came with a number of announcements, but one that stood out was that NBA players can now be sponsored by sports gambling ventures.
Now that Massachusetts sports betting is live, here’s a closer look at which Boston Celtics players could be in line for a deal, as well as why it makes sense for the league as a whole.
Sportsbook sponsors in the new NBA CBA
Along with the new CBA allowing players to endorse different sports betting operators, they can invest in those companies.
Shams Charania, who works for The Athletic, Stadium and FanDuel TV, noted that sportsbook sponsors will need to have “complete separation from (the) gambling component.”
How this will work, sources say: Players will be able to invest in NBA/WNBA teams via NBPA’s selected Private Equity firm, an unprecedented opportunity in U.S. pro sports – and do endorsement deals with sports betting companies, with complete separation from gambling component. https://t.co/6iMGPPWYgD
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 2, 2023
There will likely need to be more fine-tuning when it comes to the specific language of the sports betting sponsorships clause. That part of the announcement seems to have brought more head scratching than celebration. But regardless, getting this endeavor in the new CBA was a notable step.
Up until the latest CBA update, the league prohibited active players from promoting sportsbooks that offer NBA wagering opportunities. The same goes for coaches, team executives, referees and anyone involved in the actual play on the court.
Active pro athletes with sportsbook deals
Sportsbook sponsorships among athletes are generally found with retired athletes. Finding them with active players is not very common. But it’s not entirely unheard of.
Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon made headlines last year with his ambassador deal with MaximBet. While MaximBet subsequently closed within the year, Blackmon became the first active Major League Baseball player with a sportsbook endorsement. That was one opportunity new to MLB players in 2022 after they reached a new CBA of their own.
Additionally, NHL superstar Connor McDavid boasts a BetMGM sponsorship, too. The Edmonton Oiler star’s deal came before Blackmon’s, making McDavid the first active professional athlete in the four main Northern American sports to have such a deal.
Potential sponsorships with Celtics players
Now that sports betting in Massachusetts is live and betting on the Celtics in MA is 100% legal, which Celtics players could cash in on a sportsbook deal?
The obvious answer is Jayson Tatum. One of the top contenders for MVP this season, Tatum stands as one of the league’s brightest stars. He’s already got the backing of household companies such as Jordan Brand, Gatorade, Subway and NBA 2K. Tatum should be on the top of any sportsbook’s list when it comes to potential Massachusetts ambassadors.
In addition, keep an eye on two other Celtics to make a splash: Marcus Smart and Blake Griffin.
Both are at different points in their Boston careers. Smart is the longest-tenured Celtic on the roster, while Griffin arrived to town this past offseason as a free agent signing.
Throughout his nine-year NBA career, Smart has blossomed into a gritty defensive nuisance. The league’s defensive player of the year is a fan favorite, winning the team’s prestigious Red Auerbach award in 2019. He’s currently got a footwear and apparel endorsement with Puma.
Conversely, while Griffin is in his first year in a Celtic uniform, he’s a lighthearted guy with deals with Kia, Subway, AT&T and NBA 2K. He’s also ventured into the comedy world, too, with his own standup routine.
Of course, any player on the roster could potentially snag a deal. And while they’d be the first active Celtics players to boast such an endorsement, other Boston royalty have already accomplished the same feat. Kevin Garnett is partnered with BetMGM and Rob Gronkowski is one of the faces of FanDuel.
It’s worth noting that the NBA is no stranger to sports betting sponsorships. While no players, coaches and others impacting on-court play have been able to attain sportsbook partnerships before this point, the league itself has its own. Two years ago, the NBA renewed its partnership with both DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel. The deals continue to make both sportsbooks the co-official sports betting partners of the league.
NBA changes stance on sports gambling
Just like any major league, the NBA wants to maintain fairness — especially with its image. Gambling, though, has been frowned upon, and for good reason.
Remember the name Tim Donaghy? In 2007, the FBI investigated the former NBA referee for betting on basketball games that he officiated over the course of his career. A judge sentenced Donaghy to 15 months in prison for the scandal.
Because of that, the NBA previously had its hands in a confirmable gambling scandal. The NBA, like any major sports league, advertises and polices itself as one that produces a pure and fair product.
There would have been no way the league would have adopted any sort of gambling-related sponsor prior to this point. But as more and more states legalize sports betting, it’s less taboo.
Consider it a trickle-down effect: Once the league reached its deal with its co-official sportsbooks, more teams started to announce sportsbook sponsors of their own.
New CBA comes at perfect time for teams and players
The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association agreed to the new CBA a little more than a month after Massachusetts legalized mobile sports betting.
Since the launch, sportsbooks have been aggressive when it comes to advertising with professional sports and athletes. There’s even a chance that TD Garden gets a retail sportsbook.
Should TD Garden add a sportsbook to its arsenal, it would make sense for one or more Celtics players to become ambassadors for that operator. It also makes sense considering professional athletes in other sports and leagues garner sportsbook endorsements. The NBA doesn’t want to be the last one on board.
If you or a loved one is experiencing problems with gambling, call 1-800-327-5050 or visit www.mahelpline.org/problemgambling to speak with a trained specialist for free, 24/7