Although the NFL has decided that players can’t have equity in their teams, the league has no rules about teams helping a player who has equity in his own business.
The news from early May the receiver Tyler Lockett’s real estate company has become an official sponsor of the Seahawks raised a few eyebrows at the time, given that the non-football business relationship potentially opens the door for the team to give benefits to a player that don’t, but should, fall under the salary cap.
Lockett discussed with reporters on Friday how the arrangement came to be.
“I kind of brought it up,” Lockett said. “I learned the worst thing that can happen is people say no, so I kind of reached out to the Seahawks upstairs on the third floor. I talked to them just about the opportunity to be able to do a partnership. I learned about them just throughout the years of me being here, they had one with Windermere and so when I heard that Windermere wasn’t going to do it anymore, I had an opportunity to see if it was even possible to do it. We went through all the rules, the laws, the regulations, we did everything the right way and so I’m thankful to even be able to have a chance to do that.
“Honestly I think it says a lot about our organization just believing in us, giving us a chance to be able to start our second careers early, being able to find balance, and time management. To be able to do those types of things I can’t speak for every organization, but I never heard of a lot of organizations even going that extra mile to do stuff to help a player even if it doesn’t help them.”
To the extent that the first paragraph alleviates concerns of salary-cap circumvention, the second paragraph immediately dusts them off. If the Seahawks are “going that extra mile to do stuff” to help Lockett “even if it doesn’t help them” through this sponsorship, it becomes the kind of thing that potentially creates a cap loophole, since the league insists that any financial value given to a player must be accounted for under the spending limit. (Earlier this year, for example, the league took a fifth-round pick from the Texans for paying a mere $26,000 to a local facility where Deshaun Watson had been training.)
The point here isn’t to knock Lockett’s entrepreneurial spirit. He’s doing something other players should emulate. The issue is whether he has found a true exception to the cap rules that other players with other teams will be able duplicate.
Tom Brady did it with TB12 while at the Patriots. And even though the anti-Pats of the world wonder whether there were overlooked cap violations there, we’re told that the arrangement was fully scrutinized by the league office. If arrangements like this can indeed hold up to NFL examination, why shouldn’t more players and more teams do it?