Sports media company Overtime has picked up some major financial backing in advance of the September launch of their Overtime Elite basketball league (“OTE”), an alternative to the NCAA and the NBA’s G-League aimed at 16-to-18-year-old basketball players and provides them with a minimum annual salary of $100,000. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his capital investment firm, Bezos Expeditions, have teamed up with rapper Drake and others to put $80 million in a Series C fundraising round towards OTE.
Two months ago, NBA All-Star and 3x Olympic Gold medalist Carmelo Anthony spoke with the New York Times about the perception that OTE is either in direct competition with other established leagues or detrimental to the futures of its young prospects. “We are not against the NCAA,” he told the outlet. “We are not against the NBA. We are not trying to hurt those guys or come at them. We want the support of the NBA and NCAA. Eventually, we are going to need those guys anyway.” Anthony himself is considered one of the best basketball college players ever despite his own “one-and-done” career at Syracuse, and he is an investor in Overtime Sports as well as a member of the company’s board of directors.
The most notorious sticking point about OTE is that, by paying players and targeting young adults of that age range, it strips them of their eligibility to play for high school or college teams should they decide they no longer want to be part of OTE – or cannot make the cut. But CEO Dan Porter says he understands the responsibility; in fact, OTE sets aside a college scholarship of $100K for each player if he concludes he wants to leave the league and pursue higher education.
“We are genuine in really investing in hiring really serious and legitimate people to run every aspect of the company,” Porter said. “I don’t want to mess around with kids’ lives. I don’t want people to mess around with my kids’ lives. There is a moral obligation that goes with that.” Overtime was founded in 2016 and received strong investment from late NBA commissioner David Stern. Some other NBA notables who are investing in OTE include current stars Klay Thompson, Devin Booker, and Trae Young.
The NCAA business model has long been lambasted for generating wealth for itself while its athletes are not permitted to earn a dime from their “image and likeness” or else forfeit their amateur status. In February of this year, Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy proposed “The College Athlete Economic Freedom Act.” It would permit college athletes to “make money off their Name, Image, and Likeness with the fewest restrictions possible.” However, the NCAA held up the act’s ratification after the U.S. Department of Justice voiced concerns with the NCAA’s antitrust stance.
“I love college sports,” Murphy said in a statement. “But it’s time to admit that something is very rotten when the industry makes $15 billion a year, and many athletes can’t afford to put food on the table or pay for a plane ticket for their parents to see them perform. Big-time college athletics look no different than professional leagues, and it’s time for us to stop denying the right of college athletes to make money off their talents.”