Last month, the San Francisco company Fantex announced plans to offer stock in the "value and performance of the brand" of one of the premier players in the NFL — Houston Texans running back Arian Foster. Jacksonville Jaguars fans know his play well, since the Texans would qualify as division rivals, if the Jaguars were a serious threat to do anything this year in the AFC South.
On the surface, this almost seemed like a good idea. Foster is a rarity among NFL players in many respects. Known for being thoughtful, Foster might also be the highest-profile football player ever to claim to be a vegan. As a former vegan myself, I can tell you that most who claim to be vegan fall short of that assertion. Foster has been quite outspoken on the subject of taking money when playing NCAA football at Tennessee, saying that the very idea of amateur status in big-time college sports was a charade and that there was something wrong with a system that turned massive profit while not giving any of that profit back to the talent generating it.
In short, I like the guy — what he stands for and his game on the field. That said, the idea that one would buy stock in an NFL player
— a fungible commodity if ever there's
sbeen one — is prima-facie absurd.
This is especially true in Foster's case. During his Nov. 3 game, a Sunday night tilt against the Indianapolis Colts, Foster left the game with a back injury. In recent years, Foster has battled everything from hamstring issues and a torn ACL to a heart condition. No one who plays in the NFL is 100 percent healthy, but Foster is never too far from the injury report.
Some theorize Foster's lingering maladies might not affect this initial public offering — which, at this writing, is still in process with no date announced.
"Obviously, if the injury is season-ending and requires surgery and/or rehab, the inaugural IPO could be affected, but just like a stock that has a bad quarter, some may see it as an opportunity to invest in Arian's comeback — buy low," Marc Dzamba, director of sports marketing at Zambezi, told ABC News. "The market will ultimately determine the elasticity of the ‘stocks' based on all contributing forces both on and off the field."
What does the "market" say about "veteran" running backs?
For reference, let's consider our local legend Maurice Jones-Drew, who's nearing the end of his contract with the Jaguars — and who's not expected back.
Jones-Drew came to Jacksonville in the 2006 NFL Draft's second round, and chose the number 32 as a symbolic rebuke to the 32 teams that passed on him — including the Jaguars, who took Marcedes Lewis in the first round. Since then, he's had more good years than bad, and two great years in 2009 and '11, often serving as the lone bright light for a franchise that seemed hapless — especially this decade.
However, we can appreciate all this without ever entertaining the possibility of buying stock in his "brand," because we know MJD's brand more or less ends when his on-field career does. No one with any sense is going to buy the stock of someone who is the fifth man on an NFL pregame or recap show. Which is likely where MJD — and Arian Foster — will end up. It's where skill position players go once their on-field skills have eroded.
Fantex, of course, is aware of this. The shares it sells in Foster, Vernon Davis and other big-name ballplayers really are just portals into owning the company's common stock.
"This is the initial public offering of Fantex Series Arian Foster Convertible Tracking Stock … and references in this prospectus to an offering of shares of Fantex Series Arian Foster shall be deemed also to mean a reference to the shares of platform common stock," Fantex states. "Holders of shares of Fantex Series Arian Foster will not have an ownership interest in our Arian Foster Brand, or any of our affiliated entities. Rather, investors in our Fantex Series Arian Foster will be our common stockholders."
Now, I love a good hustle as much as the next person. But buying shares of Fantex appeals to me about as much as buying shares of the Green Bay Packers franchise might.
The Packers sell stock whenever they need money to expand their stadium. Their stock, at $250 a share, does not pay a dividend or confer any material benefit whatsoever.
Sort of like holding stock in a busted-up running back. Or a company that specializes in stock thereof.