Business

How Rob Gronkowski is Shaking up the CBD Industry

By Josh Hall
Abacus Health Products Inc.

Throughout an NFL career that spanned nearly a decade—and included three Super Bowl titles, four first-team All-Pro nods, and five Pro Bowl appearances—the name Rob Gronkowski was basically synonymous with “TD.” The New England Patriots’ chiseled 6-foot-6-inch tight end hauled in 79 touchdowns, including a league-high 17 in 2011. After an August announcement in which the player affectionately nicknamed “Gronk” announced a new partnership with Abacus Health Products, the name Rob Gronkowski might soon be synonymous with “CBD.” But before we get into the details of Gronkowski’s deal with Abacus, we wanted to help paint a portrait of one of the NFL’s most gregarious (and productive) players in NFL history—including what lead to his abrupt retirement in March.

Bumps, bruises, and then some

During his prolific career, Gronkowski underwent nine surgeries and battled countless injuries as the weekly pounding he absorbed took its toll. Gronkowski missed his entire junior season at the University of Arizona due to back surgery, and later had surgery on his ankle, forearm, knee, and two additional procedures on his back. By his own admission, those injuries dealt a blow to more than just Gronkowski’s body. They altered his mood, which ultimately sealed the deal to walk away from the game he loved.

Gronkowski spoke candidly in his Abacus press conference, addressing the fans clamoring for his return. “But I want to be clear to my fans: I needed to recover,” he said. “I was not in a good place. Football was bringing me down. And I didn’t like it. I was losing that joy in life, like the joy. I really was. I was fighting through it. I knew what I signed up for. I knew what I was fighting through. I knew I just had to fix myself.”

He talked about how he cried in his bed following New England’s victory in Super Bowl LIII—but those weren’t tears of joy, they were from the deep thigh bruise he received in the game that left him nearly immobile. The pain, he said, impacted his sleep habits for a month and resulted in him having a record-breaking amount of blood removed from the site over three different hospital trips.

Gronk discovers CBD

There’s no doubting that cannabidiol, also known as CBD, boasts an array of helpful benefits. But for many people, and as Gronkowski learned over the Fourth of July holiday, it’s the compound’s ability to relieve pain that makes it so enticing. Oddly enough, the pain Gronkowski was trying to fight with his first CBD experience wasn’t from a vicious hit by a linebacker. It was from injured toes he sustained in a backyard barefoot soccer game he was playing with his girlfriend and some friends over the holiday weekend.

The way Gronkowski tells it, his father Gordon offered him some CBD cream to rub on his jammed toes. According to Gronkowski, he got the type of instant relief he was looking for, and even went on to say he thinks using CBD could have helped the pain he dealt with on a regular basis as an NFL player.

The partnership with Abacus takes shape

Perform a Google search for Abacus Health Products, and the first thing you’ll see is “Endorsed by Rob Gronkowski.” Click through to the site, and you’ll find a hero image of Gronkowski with the headline, “CBDMEDIC PARTNERS WITH 3X FOOTBALL WORLD CHAMPION Rob Gronkowski” and a link to learn more. The top of that dedicated page has a quote from Gronkowski about how the products changed his life, followed by buttons to explore the products’ ingredients and to buy them.

Needless to say, it appears Abacus is as happy to have Gronkowski on its team as Tom Brady was to have him on his.

As part of the endorsement deal, Gronkowski agreed to promote the products and received more than 300,000 subordinate voting shares in the business. According to reports, he’ll have the option to purchase more at $15 per share if he chooses. The CBDMedic pain relief products themselves are designed to target several different activity levels, body parts, and conditions.

Of note, the entire line is hemp-based and devoid of any THC, the cannabis compound that causes the euphoric high associated with marijuana use. The CBDMedic website also says that consumers can purchase the products in CVS stores in select states.

Gronk the pitchman

They say a rising tide lifts all boats, and it appears that Gronkowski’s announcement could benefit other CBD purveyors in the New England area. A reporter from The Herald News in Fall River, Massachusetts, spoke with several shops in the area who said their CBD sales have dramatically increased since the Abacus-Gronkowski partnership news broke.

Though it appears to have been in the works prior to the Gronkowski endorsement, the story also reported that the Fall River Board of Health is imposing stiffer regulations on CBD retailers, beginning on Oct. 11. In order to remain on the shelf, the products sold must be from an approved source and licensed by the state’s Department of Agriculture Resources or an equivalent.

Lastly, the products must pass approval from an independent lab that can confirm they don’t exceed the 0.3% THC legal limit and are free of pesticides. An age restriction will also go into effect in October that places a minimum age of 21-years-old to buy edible CBD and hemp products.

It’s time sports leagues take notice

In addition to serving as the face of Abacus, Gronkowski told the audience at his press conference that he intends to lobby various professional sports leagues about changing the rules on CBD use among athletes. In 2018, the Big3 Basketball League made headlines when it became the first pro league in America to allow players to use CBD for pain management and recovery. But not every league has been so accommodating.

Though the NFL’s drug policy doesn’t explicitly list CBD, it considers the compound to be a product of cannabis, so it falls under a league-wide ban of the substance. Other associations like golf’s PGA Tour haven’t necessarily banned CBD, but they advise against its use because of the risk that a product could contain a banned substance like THC. However, that warning didn’t stop one of the sport’s biggest names, Bubba Watson, from inking an endorsement deal of his own with cbdMD.

Watson and Gronkowski are just some of the latest athletes to come forward among a group of pros who are becoming more and more vocal about using CBD.

“I am here today to appeal to the sports governing bodies of the world to update their positions on CBD,” Gronkowski said at the press conference. “It’s just time.”

Let’s just hope the guy is as good at hauling in policy changes as he is touchdown passes.

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