The Los Angeles Sports Council is putting on the LA Sports Innovation Conference Wednesday at the YouTube Theater at SoFi Stadium to emphasize and highlight the impact of technology and entrepreneurial spirit in the Los Angeles sports scene. Los Angeles Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner will not be at the conference as he prepares to face the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at SoFi Stadium but we caught up with him to talk about technology and the entrepreneurial spirit.
The Sporting Tribune: You’re a big Call of Duty fan. You were one of the first to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, which came out Oct. 28, and I’m sure you’ll be one of the first to play Call of Duty: Warzone 2.0 when it’s released Nov. 16. How excited are you for the game and how has the game helped you keep in touch with friends, family and former teammates?
Bobby Wagner: Yeah, I’m definitely excited about the game. I got a chance to play it early before everybody else. It’s a great game and I’m excited for everybody to finally be able to play it but it is a way to just keep in contact and talk a little trash and you don’t have to be right in the room with them. My nephew plays it in college, my brother play it and a lot of my former teammates play it as well. Every time I see (Seattle Seahawks safety) Quandre (Diggs) start to get on, I get on just to talk a little trash to him. I think it’s definitely more than just a game. It’s a way to connect and I think the community is just awesome.
The Sporting Tribune: As entrepreneur, what do you think of esports and Call of Duty in particular. There’s a Call of Duty League that many NFL owners are involved with. The Los Angeles Guerrillas, for example, are owned by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, and the Los Angeles Thieves just won the league championship last season. Is this a space you could see yourself being involved in post career?
Bobby Wagner: Sure, this is definitely a space that I would love to be involved in. I think it’s an interesting space because it’s more than just a game. The community is amazing and the way it brings everybody together. As soon as the game comes out, everybody is going to be out until two o’clock in the morning playing. It’s crazy. It’s bigger than just the game and I would love to be some be a part of something like that.
The Sporting Tribune: You have talked about being an entrepreneur and your investments have been well chronicled by CNBC such as getting equity stake in the $1.2 billion investing platform Public.com. Is there a common thread in all the companies you’ve invest in? Is there something that you look for?
Bobby Wagner: I look for the team. You have to believe in the team because I think a good team can make a bad product go and a bad team can make a good product crumble. The first thing I look for is team, then you look at the product, the product market age, how big is the market that that product is trying to capture and if they’re solving a problem. If they solve a problem, then you know it makes sense.
The Sporting Tribune: You negotiated your current five-year, $65 millon contract with the Los Angeles Rams. Was that uncomfortable at all? What was that like?
Bobby Wagner: It was more uncomfortable for them than it was for me. When you try to negotiate your own contract, you take away that middleman and so that buffer when teams say what you can’t do in order to get a better value for you. You have to hear that directly. And so for me, I never take anything too personally so I think it was more uncomfortable for them to tell me how they felt good and bad versus for myself. At the end of the day, it was about learning and kind of setting myself up for life after football.
The Sporting Tribune: Have you already thought about what you want to do when you retire from the NFL?
Bobby Wagner: I definitely have an idea. I think this is the reason why I spend so much time in business, investing, and looking into companies so I definitely see myself being a part of that. I don’t think that needs to not happen until after I decide to retire whenever that happens so I’m getting after it in the offseason and I’m getting after it now and whenever I decide to walk away the transition will happen
The Sporting Tribune: What are your thoughts on the current state of college-athletes with NIL and the transfer portal?
Bobby Wagner: I think they’re in a unique position. They get to make money and they get to use their name, image and likeness after the teams and schools were taking advantage of them for a long time. So now they get to have a little bit of benefits from that. I think it’s going to provide them opportunities to make money while they’re playing. They still need to focus on the game but they’re able to make money now. I think the agency business is going to be interesting because they’re going to be able to come after these guys earlier so going be interesting to see like, what things look like five years from now.