The Lamar Jackson saga has taken some incredible twists and turns, but nothing tops everything that went down on Thursday night. Earlier this week reports emerged that someone was contacting teams on Jackson’s behalf, and this person wasn’t an agent registered with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA). On Thursday we possibly learned their name, and this was just the tip of the iceberg.
Up to this point Jackson has been largely representing himself. The CBA allows for players to negotiate on their own, but if anyone else is involved in the negotiation process they have to be a registered agent with the NFLPA. This is a safeguard to protect players from outside parties who could look to make financial gain off a player’s contract, without the player’s best interests at heart.
Rumors swirled that it could be Saint Omni, the elusive NFL fixer who worked on behalf of Roquan Smith a year ago, and has recently been attached to Laremy Tunsil, as well as several other players. Omni isn’t a licensed agent by the NFLPA, but has a record of involving himself in difficult contract negotiations only to see them resolved within a few days.
It turns Lamar wasn’t being repped by Omni though, and it’s here things got a lot weirder. On Thursday evening the NFLPA sent a memo to teams instructing them not to do business with a “Ken Francis,” saying that Francis was working on behalf of Jackson, and any offer sheet attached to Francis’ involvement could be found void.
Immediately people began trying to find out who Ken Francis is. This is a name which has never been mentioned in NFL circles before, let alone attached to one of the biggest name quarterbacks in the NFL. A now-deleted LinkedIn profile for Francis showed him as the Florida-based CEO of “The Entire Gym,” a portable home workout machine with a Bluetooth speaker attached, because why not?
While people were trying to work out how, and why this man was contacting NFL teams about Jackson, the quarterback himself took to Twitter to deny that Ken Francis was operating on his behalf.
At this point things got really weird. The NFLPA wouldn’t have mentioned Francis by name unless they had evidence he was contacting teams about Jackson. I mean, it’s not like they randomly picked a name and told teams not to discuss Lamar with this man. So was Ken Francis a rogue actor? Did Lamar get catfished by a fake agent? Did Jackson truly have no idea who this man was? The possibilities were endless, but in the end the real answer is so much more bizarre than anyone could have expected when Jackson later posted this.
So Ken Francis, CEO of “The Entire Gym,” who the NFLPA told teams not to talk to, not only knows Lamar, but the two are business partners on the workout equipment itself. Jackson, turning all the attention on Ken into a chance for marketing, used the opportunity to drop a teaser video for “The Entire Gym,” saying it would come “this Summer.”
Okay, what the hell is happening?
Your guess is as good as anyone’s but there’s really only three possibilities at this point:
No. 1: This was all a misunderstanding
Admittedly this sounds really implausible, but there is a chance teams didn’t understand why Francis was contacting them. Imagine for a moment if he was calling around to discuss “The Entire Gym” and mentioned that he was an associate of Lamar Jackson. It’s not outside the realm of possibility to imagine a team assuming he was reaching out on behalf of Jackson and his contract, not a cross promotion for the exercise equipment. That could have gotten this whole ball rolling.
No. 2: Lamar Jackson and Ken Francis got caught
Negotiating an NFL contract for yourself is difficult, and emotionally draining. There’s a reason players use agents or go-betweens, and it’s to insulate themselves from difficult conversations about player durability, performance ceilings, and legitimate concerns teams have about whether giving huge money to a player is worth it for the long-term financial health of their balance sheet. It’s entirely possible that Jackson, having a prior business relationship with Francis, had him contact teams on his behalf — not really knowing that this is a big deal. The duo got caught, and are now trying to backtrack.
No. 3: This entire mess was all viral marketing for “The Entire Gym”
This is both the wildest scenario, and also feels like the most likely. This would mean that Ken Francis contacting teams for Lamar was all an arranged plan to get his name trending. Then, when everything was at a fever pitch they’d drop the trailer for “The Entire Gym” to get people interested in it.
As weird as this is, until Thursday night nobody really knew that Lamar Jackson was involved with “The Entire Gym.” They do now. It seems mind-bogglingly stupid to jeopardize NFL contract negotiations over marketing exercise equipment, but we’ve seen weirder things in the past.
Heck, it’s not the first time we’ve seen the NFL and weird products mix.