CLEVELAND — Browns safety Sheldrick Redwine has become the team’s first player to offer his own NFT, in the form of a one-of-kind digital trading card tied to the cryptocurrency blockchain. But unlike many NFTs, the winner of the auction for Redwine’s digital work will also win some real-world bonuses that should interest any Browns fan.
An NFT, or non-fungible token, is the latest commodity in the burgeoning cryptocurrency market to excite some, and befuddle many others.
Here's a copy of Redwine's NFT, an animated digital trading card featuring his biography and stats:
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Canadian entrepreneur Grant Laschowski, who partnered with Redwine to create the NFT, describes them as “essentially a file — a video, could be a picture as well, or digital graphic that lives essentially, indefinitely on the blockchain.”
The blockchain is basically a decentralized digital ledger that records online transactions and is linked to the exchange of all crypto-commodities, like Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Ethereum, and now NFTs.
"It really started as a space for graphic designers, artists, and painters to sell their work to the general public," Laschowski said. "The analogy I use is that the NFT space is going to do for content creators and artists what social media did for influencers, and basically that's giving everyone a platform."
While NFTs began as a way for graphic designers and digital artists to sell uniquely-identified pieces online, Laschowski says it has morphed quickly to other industries, such as real estate, music, and now the sports world.
“Musicians have then launched CDs and sold songs using NFTs,” he said. “Of course, athletes have been selling trading cards via NFT. So the space is ever-changing day by day and week by week.”
Laschowski’s company, M&G Collections, has created NFTs for American and Canadian football players, boxers, hockey players and music creators.
He said that NFTs launched by some professional athletes have ranged from the low thousands, but NFL stars like Patrick Mahomes and Rob Gronkowski have raised millions with the sales of their NFTs.
Earlier this month, NFL greats Eli and Payton Manning joined other athletes by dropping a collection of NFTs, some of which sold for tens of thousands of dollars, with proceeds going to benefit several charities.
“It seems to be that every single day there's a new celebrity coming out with an NFT,” he said. “So we've been blessed to be able to expand our tentacles basically into every industry and area of sports.”
Laschowski said Redwine reached out to him to create the digital asset, which he wanted to combine with a real-life experience as an added bonus to whoever purchases the NFT.
“So if the buyer is in the city of Cleveland, a local, and the fans are allowed into the games, he's going to give them two tickets and also an on-field meet-and-greet,” Laschowski said. “Now, if for some reason, fans are not allowed or they're not in the local area, the winner of this will get a signed jersey shipped to them and a virtual meet-and-greet with Sheldrick on Zoom.”
If the idea of buying this NFT just got a lot more exciting, there’s a few things you’ll want to learn before diving into the non-fungible world.
"The great thing about today is that information is readily available," Laschowski said. "Whether it's YouTube, Google, or directly on any of these NFT platforms, there is a ton of information available online."
These NFT websites all have a wealth of information for NFT and crypto-novices to learn about what apps you’ll need to begin buying and selling NFTs using various cryptocurrencies.
“I would say just take the time to educate yourself on this new space,” Laschowski said. “I always say to people that are learning from me about this space — it's like sitting back in 1995 discussing what this new thing called the Internet is and what the capabilities are.”
Like the internet of old, NFTs are ever-changing, and could be completely different years or months from now.
For those interested in bidding on Redwine’s NFT, or any other NFT, Laschowski said the process is simple.
“All you need is a digital wallet,” he said. "One of the more popular wallets out there is offered by Coinbase. It's basically an app you can download on your phone, free to use. Once you've purchased cryptocurrency from an exchange, you're free to start bidding on NFTs of your liking. Two of the more popular cryptocurrencies right now are Bitcoin and Ethereum."
From there, you’ll need to find the website for NFT you wish to purchase. Redwine’s NFT is on M&G Collections page on Rarible here. While some NFTs can be purchased for a set price, M&G is auctioning the Redwine NFT.
“As long as your wallet is connected and you have funds, then there should be absolutely no issue in bidding,” Laschowski said. “It's quite, quite simple. These platforms make it very, very easy for you beginners to go and get involved in this space.”
Just like a physical trading card, whoever wins the auction and takes ownership of Redwine's NFT could then sell that unique digital piece to someone else, Laschowski explained. The difference with NFTs is that the original creator has the option to automatically receive a residual percent of that sale and any future sale. In this case, Redwine would get 10% of the price any time his NFT is resold.
"So it's a way of passive income for them moving forward," Laschowski said.
While Redwine may be the first Brown with his own NFT, Laschowski predicts he won’t be the only one.
“I can only imagine that this is going to be the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “We're doing these with athletes across all leagues. But I can only imagine that his teammates and others in the league will follow, just like Gronk did — Patrick Mahomes. This is the beginning of a new wave, a new way for these athletes to monetize their brand and likeness. This is a very exciting space for everyone to be in right now."