NFL legend Drew Brees used to joke about training for pickleball. Now he co-owns a pro pickleball te
Retired NFL superstar Drew Brees is the latest major sports figure to get in on the pickleball craze.
Major League Pickleball announced Thursday that the one-time Super Bowl champion has joined the ownership group of the Austin, Texas, Mad Drops Pickleball Club.
The group also includes venture capital firm Good Alpha Industries, Los Angeles Lakers co-owner Jim Buss and Ryan Serhant of Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing New York.”
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. “I am an avid pickleball player, fan and student of the game,” said Brees, who played 20 years in the NFL, in a statement. “I look forward to helping raise awareness around the incredible players and competitions in MLP, helping grow the sport of pickleball and fostering overall fan engagement.”
Brees, who retired from football in 2021, spent the past season working for NBC Sports as an analyst before they mutually parted ways. In the past, the former New Orleans Saints quarterback has made jokes about “joining the pickleball tour,” but his most recent move comes at a time when the sport has seen explosive growth.
The pandemic gave the sport a major boost as people looked for socially distant ways to be safe in a group activity. Today, nearly 5 million people play pickleball nationwide according to USA Pickleball. The sport saw a participatory growth rate of 39% over the past two years, making it the fastest-growing sport in America according to The Sports Fitness Industry Association.
The sport has also attracted a number of big name players, from billionaire Melinda Gates to celebrities Ellen DeGeneres, Leonardo DiCaprio and the Kardashians.
Major League Pickleball was created by founder and CEO Steve Kuhn in 2021. The league consists of 12 teams of pro pickleball players that play in a co-ed format. In addition to the former Super Bowl winning quarterback, MLP also includes other high-profile owners such as entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk, Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry and former tennis pro James Blake.
“The talented and passionate Mad Drops PC ownership group will further elevate our competition and athletes, which contributes to our goal of growing the game of pickleball into the world’s most exciting spectator sport,” Kuhn said in a statement.
Disclosure: NBC Sports and CNBC are both part of NBCUniversal.