Tech

When the NFTs came to the roller derby, the roller derby put up a fight

When you think of a roller derby, you probably think of cool people on roller skates who race around the track and hit each other. You probably don’t think about blockchain. But cryptocurrency has entered the arena, whether roller derby is ready for it or not.

Three roller derby contestants – Lady Trample (real name: Samara Pepperell), Miss Chai Maven (Jennifer Dean), and Sharon Tacos (Cailyn Klein) – attempted to start an NFT project this month. NFTs or non-fungible tokens are digital assets that are stored on the blockchain. One of the most famous uses of NFTs is to prove ownership of digital art, such as those cartoon monkeys you may have seen around, or Reese Witherspoon current twitter avatar (as well as latest business enterprise). But you don’t “own” the art; rather, you have a token that represents it. You can also earn a lot of money by selling these tokens.

Like the cryptocurrency itself, NFTs are polarizing. Some see these digital assets as a new frontier in art collecting, digital ownership and community. A lot of other people think it’s an environmentally destructive scam where a small group gets very rich off what is actually just lines of code with no real value or benefit. These criticisms came out on a smaller scale when the NFT derby project was announced.

In some ways, roller derby and NFT are similar. For many, they represent more than just a sport or an investment opportunity, respectively. These are also communities that outsiders don’t understand. Both of them have been accused of being a cult or a fad.

But these theoretical parallels don’t mean that roller derby and NFT communities go hand in hand in real life. Trample, Maven and Taco thought they would and created Bout Time NFTTT. (Roller derby games are called fights, and each skater has a “T” in the name of the derby.)

If you follow roller derby, you know who at least one, if not all three of the founding members of Bout Time were: elite athletes who played for the best roller derby teams in the world. Taco came up with the idea in January. She says she got into crypto during the pandemic and had the skills and knowledge to build her own collection of NFTs. Inspired by other NFT projects that donated to various causes, Takos thought she could do the same for roller derby by donating some of the proceeds to struggling leagues. She reached out to two skaters whose skills the project would need: Trample is an artist who could draw images, and Maven works in marketing and could promote the project.

It is not uncommon for skaters to open their own derby-related business, from producing gear and clothing to owning stores that sell them. But these are all tangible goods and services that make sense to people. NFTs will break new ground for the consumer derby.

Roller derby won’t hurt. Sports have been largely shut down during the pandemic. Two years later, he won’t come close to recovering, and most likely never will. Many leagues have lost their venues, sources of income and members. Cash infusions could work wonders for them. All three also saw it as a way to generate more outside interest in the derby, or as a starting point for other NFT and blockchain applications that could also popularize the sport.

You can see where they got this idea from. Many different sports leagues as well as athletes get into the NFT, so why not this one and why not them? And the spirit of the DIY derby is like a decentralized community that includes the most successful NFT projects – and the NFT space itself. Maven said she also saw it as a chance for more women to participate in the male-dominated industry. Trample drew the base image of a roller derby skater and hundreds of interchangeable elements, from skates to tattoos, to be layered over it. They generated thousands of images, each with their own NFT.

“It was just an attempt to give a broader view of the sport and a cool way to create something collectible,” Trample said.

They announced the project on March 9 live on Instagram along with Web site who provided all the details, social media accounts and Discord channel.

Here’s how it was supposed to work: On March 31st, 10,000 NFTs were released at Bout Time for people to buy for $25. a cryptocurrency called Polygon. Depending on how many NFTs they sold, they donated up to 50 percent of their proceeds to roller derby leagues, with NFT holders as a group deciding which leagues. Another 5 percent will go to nature nonprofits to offset environmental costs NFT coinage. The rest of the money would be divided among the three, minus any other fees they incurred and taxes they had to pay. If they sold all 10,000 NFTs, each of them would get a decent amount of change, but nobody got rich here. At least not from initial sales—the value of NFTs has been known to skyrocket.

One has to wonder if there was enough overlap between the roller derby community and the NFT community to sell 10 of them, let alone 10,000. But Bout Time didn’t think it had to be. NFT addicts buy from collections that don’t represent what they like or what they do all the time, cartoon cats to pixel punks. Why not derby skaters?

“I think the job is really cool,” Tacos said. “I love most of the things that Trample designs and I’m sure other people think it’s cool too.”

Ideally, they say, most of the money should not come from the derby community at all. But it will come back to him.

That’s not how much of the derby community – or at least the most high-profile segments of it – saw things. In hundreds of derby-related social media comments, the three were accused of much of the same things that the NFT world in general is criticized for. People didn’t understand what NFT was and what they would buy. They said the NFTs were fraud and financial pyramids. They saw celebrities using your fame to make money from your fans. They promoted a project that was damaging the environment. If you don’t know much about NFTs and can’t figure them out, it’s easy to see their shortcomings. It is much more difficult to understand how good or useful they are.

However, unlike most NFT projects, this criticism came almost entirely from their own community, who supported them in the past and believed that the project could help. All three foresaw this and thought they were ready for it. But they didn’t foresee how scathing, numerous and invariably negative the comments would be. They had supporters, but most of them were afraid to publicly express this support, so as not to be attacked. Bout Time also worried that any leagues they contributed to would face the same hostility. Social media combined with the derby community can backfire quite a bit.

“They just want to fight and I’m not a fighter,” Trumple said. “It’s not in my nature – on the track, yes. Off the track, no.

In the end, the three skaters decided it wasn’t worth pissing off the roller derby community to create what this new one could be. They decided to pull the plug.

“If this community doesn’t want us to start this project, then we are not going to do this project for them,” Trample said. “The whole reason was to raise money for the derby community and they spoke out so strongly against us.”

So, “Bout Time NFTTT” ended before it even started. But all three say they believe NFTs — or at least the blockchain technology they are based on — are here to stay. Tacos is already involved in another NFT project that may find a more receptive audience. Or maybe not: A little reports it is said that the NFT bubble is about to burst and the average selling prices over the past few months will fall. On the other hand, people have been saying for years that the bottom of the crypto market will fall, and it continues to this day.

At the moment it looks like roller derby is not NFT ready. Or maybe he will find a different, unique path to the derby. As one person in the derby gossip Facebook group, which had a heated debate on the subject, remarked: “Blockchain” would be a good name for a derby.

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