Editor's update - On July 6 Voyager declared chapter 11 bankruptcy. It is unclear what this means for the NWSL and its players. The league never released a statement. When asked on July 14 about the Voyager situation, NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman stated, "Right now there's not much I can share about that because it is an active proceeding. We're of course in communication with them, and when we have more to share, we'll definitely let you know."
On July 1, Voyager, the cryptocurrency sponsor of the NWSL, announced it was suspending all trading, withdrawals, and deposits. Without getting too technical, the crypto market in general has tanked due to the bankruptcy woes of Three Arrows Capital Ltd., a hedge fund and massive player in cryptocurrency. According to Bloomberg, Voyager’s stock plummeted 43 percent following news of its trading suspension.
Voyager became a multi-year sponsor of the NWSL in December 2021. In a press release announcing the deal, Voyager co-founder and CEO Steve Ehrlich said, "[w]e are extremely proud to partner with the NWSL, specifically to help the league grow and provide its players with crypto education and direct financial support, paid in crypto. We believe strongly in the future of these players and this league, and we can’t wait to get started.”
In the same press release Voyager explained that their sponsorship would primarily involve setting up individual cryptocurrency accounts for each rostered player and paying them a share of the crypto NWSL player fund. Here’s where it gets thorny: when the partnership was announced, Voyager’s own cryptocurrency Voyager Token was worth $3.36. As of July 1, it is worth slightly more than 25 cents. This downward trajectory is also shared by the top five cryptocurrencies.
What does this mean?
As this story is still evolving, it is difficult to see the long-term effects of Voyager’s collapse on the NWSL. That being said, for a league who recently passed a groundbreaking collective bargaining agreement, the failed promise of more money for players through crypto is not a great look. Crypto is historically volatile. Dangling the potential for more money in front of players who make slightly more than minimum wage and then having it fail feels ethically wrong.
Furthermore, the partnership includes prominent Voyager advertising on the NWSL website and at games. This implies the NWSL’s endorsement of investing in cryptocurrency, especially because the advertisements at games give a free $25 worth of crypto to spectators to get started. The majority of people who invest in cryptocurrency will lose money. For example, as much as 55% of Bitcoin investors are losing money. If the cryptocurrency market continues to fall as dramatically as it has recently, it seems that both potential investors and the NWSL are playing a losing game.