NFTs, which are essentially unhackable codes used as one-of-a-kind "certificates of authenticity" paid for with cryptocurrency Ethereum, have been cropping up in the Austin art scene and worldwide—and they're quickly evolving into a sports fans' paradise as a new way to snag some bragging rights through digital trading cards, tickets and highlight reels.
Here are five Austin-based athletes and sports venues now involved in NFTs:
NiftyHorns—emerging Texas NFT producer
🚨🤘🏽Player Announcement!— Nifty Horns (@NiftyHorns) September 24, 2021
First up to the plate - a man who capped a scorching spring with postseason heroics in Omaha - from El Paso, TX…
Ivan Melendez! @ivanmelendez17_
NFT trading cards for the Hispanic Titanic will be available this fall as part of our first pack drop. pic.twitter.com/2xI3aMd6Tv
College sports' entrance to NFTs originally came from another Austin—a picture of Stephen F. Austin's women's basketball team as they made their first NCAA championship berth was the first to break into the market in March 2020.
Now with NCAA NIL rules in their favor, it's easier than ever for Texas athletes to cash in on their clout. The University of Texas' LEVERAGE Lineup looks to serve as a database to connect even walk-on Longhorn athletes—like Surly Horn's "Burnt Ends" tight ends deal—to lucrative sponsorship contracts.
But there hasn't yet been a database that gives each player their own Robinson-esque NFT trading card—until NiftyHorns stepped in with an NFT business model that they hope to one day have officially linked to the school.
They've already made headway with an NFT for Longhorns baseball player Ivan Melendez using the same blockchain utilized by TopShot.
"(We want to) not make it exclusive to star players or just the big three sports," NiftyHorns co-founder Josh Pitel said. "We feel very fortunate to be in a space where the fan base is large enough and passionate enough to actually support a wide variety of athletes."
Bijan Robinson—Candy.com trading card
With nearly 130,000 followers across Twitter and Instagram, Bijan Robinson is a star on and off the football field. He's used that clout to his advantage and partnered with Raising Cane's, Athletic Brewing and Centre Apparel.
And he's now following in the footsteps of NBA's TopShot with his very own NFT. Trading cards are a growing commodity in the NFT community, with TopShot raking in $700 million on cards, highlight reels and more last year.
Robinson's 100 Rare NFTs currently sit at $250 and feature a hero shot, his jersey number, position and an animated signature with a sleek, high-tech gold finish.
COTA NFTs—360 views and tickets too
Each of the two NFTs feature 360 views of different aspects of the COTA track. (Circuit of the Americas)
Back in October, Circuit of the Americas chairman Bobby Epstein appeared to embody his promise to make the 2021 U.S. Grand Prix the "biggest event on the planet this year" as an estimated 400,000 attendees made it through the gates for the Formula One weekend event.
To commemorate the event, the circuit decided to leap into the trendy NFT scene with two 360-degree panoramas, set at minimum bids of $30,000 each. And like many who look to tack on physical elements to the mystical crypto world, the circuit includes two VIP passes for MotoGP or Formula 1 events this year or next.
"Circuit of The Americas hosts some of the world's most iconic sports and entertainment events," Epstein said in a press release. "Just as visitors realize how unique and special COTA is, we know collectors will appreciate the significance behind our designs as well as the premium hospitality associated with the winning bids."
Campbell-Williams Field NFT Collection—a true UT NFT
Check out this dope project I did for the Campbell-Williams Field NFT Collection!— Bryson Williams (@artofbryson) September 11, 2021
Titled "Longhorn Legacies" Made in collaboration with @VybHouse and @Rickthelaureate
For more info check out https://t.co/XFr5gDSFtapic.twitter.com/SRCyWsjVqM
As the school's two Heisman Trophy winners, UT football legends Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams made sports history at their times as running backs for the Longhorns football team—and they encouraged others to become part of sports history themselves with a rare collection of 100 NFTs in honor of the renaming of the school's historic football stadium.
In collaboration with UT, Campbell and Williams created the collection a year after the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium was renamed in their honor. The "Campbell-Williams Field NFT Collection" included:
- The Campbell-Williams Experience NFT, which gives its owner two VIP tickets to the 2022 Super Bowl and Williams' Super Bowl 2022 party in Los Angeles,, dinner with Earl Campbell and friends and a 'UT Legend' memorabilia package.
- The ArtofBryson NFT, which included two tickets to The Red River Showdown (UT vs. Oklahoma) on Oct. 9, a Zoom call with both Williams and Campbell, signed cleats from current running back Robinson, and other care package add-ons.
- The Moon Ticket: six NFTs that grants its owners to an out-of-this-world astrology chat with Williams
- And the 100 trading-card style NFTs featuring artwork and both players' digital signatures.
USMNT—and their NFTs—come to Austin
As the U.S. Men's National Team headed to Austin's brand-new Q2 Stadium to play Jamaica in October, so did its Only Forward Art Series. This edition of the months-long series featured a poster design from Austin artist Phoebe "Feebee" Joynt.
Joynt incorporated her specialties in graphic design, street art and logo work to create the gameday poster, which was featured around town, at Austin FC's downtown store and online as an NFT.
"I was thrilled to work with FootyCon and U.S. Soccer," FeeBee told the USMNT. "I've always had a passion for soccer after being introduced to the sport by my dad as a young child and I'm so excited to create a piece inspired by the game that also references and is in dialogue with the amazing city of Austin that I call home."
The rare free NFT became available to all fans attending the Oct. 7 World Cup Qualifier as well as via purchase on the NTWRK app the day before the game.
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Matias Segura swept his hand across a whiteboard in his office at AISD headquarters, describing how an entrance vestibule works. It might remind you of a sally port at a prison. The vestibule is designed to protect our children from the active shooters who have plagued our nation since Columbine in 1999.
“You start with the signage,” he said. “You know exactly where the entrance is, and that’s for first responders too. We really want to make sure we keep up with visitor patterns. If they come in, they go through a system. Driver’s license, background check, which takes about a minute. We have a software system.”
AISD Director of Operations Matias Segura explains the overall school construction and what the entry vestibule looks like. (Rich Oppel)
The vestibule has two sets of locked doors. The exterior set has an audio-visual intercom, operated by a desk officer who has a view of visitor parking, the building approach and the vestibule. If allowed in, a visitor is buzzed through and then faces questioning and clearance by the desk officer. The visitor is given a card-reader pass. If a second person attempts to “trail in” behind another visitor, he is trapped in the vestibule until his status is determined. The second set of doors, into the main school building, remains locked and shut. It is open when students arrive in the morning.
Thus, the days of walking into the school, maybe waving at the principal’s executive assistant and strolling off to the cafeteria for lunch with your daughter are gone, a relic of a more bucolic time when “active shooters” were never imagined. But one must ask, what do we give up for greater safety?
Austinites remembered the Uvalde shooting victims in a vigil at the Texas Capitol in May. (Tony Fuentes)
Some critics argue that we are at risk of losing traditional values in the redesign of schools, courthouses, hospitals, churches and shopping centers. Writing in The Washington Post, architecture critic Philip Kennicott said the nation’s gun culture “threatens an essential precondition for democracy: its public space… Ideals of openness, flow, transparency and access will no longer be sustainable.”
Segura contemplates the question. At 41, he has held his job as AISD director of operations for four and a half years. Prior to that he was a consultant who led the team to build Austin’s new courthouse. His Austin and Texas roots are deep. He was born here, graduated from Bowie High, and went off to Lubbock to earn a degree in civil engineering from Texas Tech. He returned to secure an MBA at the University of Texas at Austin. He and his wife Joy Burson-Segura have two daughters who attend AISD schools. Segura said he and his operations team love AISD, care deeply about their work, and want citizens “to see us as partners.”
Back to what we lose in hardening the schools.
Segura says, “We think about students’ health. Having daylight, bringing light into a hardened facility, being able to access outdoor learning areas, (which is) hypercritical, especially in what we have learned in the pandemic.” Segura doesn’t like the idea of moats around schools (exotic, expensive) nor of classroom bomb shelters (what would teachers and students think about their looming presence?), efforts that are being tried elsewhere.
Healthcare workers receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the AISD Performing Arts Center in Mueller in 2021. (Jordan Vonderhaar)
AISD must juggle school security with the historic use of our schools for other purposes, such as voting, PTA-PTO meetings, community fairs, and, more recently, COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and food distribution. AISD does not want to end those uses, so the challenge is to design schools with separate rooms or places for those uses.
Clearly, Segura has thought about balancing conflicting equities. For him, it’s not all locked doors and blank brick or concrete walls. He stresses the importance of building a culture that includes shared responsibility of all school employees where, for example, a custodian could ask a stranger whether they have a visitor’s badge. All staffers should be well-trained in security measures, knowledgeable about new technology, and committed to working as a team to protect students, teachers and others. “We are working very, very hard on the culture,” he says. “Also, we need (financial) investment if we are going to move the needle.”
Kennicott, the Washington Post critic, quotes the late Sen. Patrick Moynihan, a sociologist and New York Democrat, who said, “Architecture is inescapably a political art, and it reports faithfully for ages to come what the political values of a particular era were. Surely, ours must be openness and fearlessness in the face of those who hide in darkness.”
But that was in 2001. What messages will Austin’s new public schools convey to future generations about our 2021 political values?
“First and foremost, these are education spaces that belong to our community. Our objective is to create incredible learning experiences for our students and at the same time ensure that the students and staff are safe.” He said he wants people to view schools as “inspired,” places where they would want to send their children. “Great things are happening in that space,” and that teachers see a place where they want to work and where they feel safe.
Voters in AISD will decide Nov. 8 on a $2.44 billion bond package to provide “funding for improvements to enhance safety, centers on equity, benefits every campus, and addresses affordability,” according to AISD officials.
Ever had sushi delivered to you on a conveyor belt or tried Ukrainian borsch?
If you're looking for a restaurant that shakes up your dinner, try one of these newly-opened options.
Conveyor belt sushi
For a fun, interactive twist on your typical sushi dinner, head to Kura Revolving Sushi Bar. Upon sitting down, you’ll have a conveyor belt to one side, where you can pluck whichever plate piques your interest, or a screen that allows you to order plates a la carte. You’ll pay by the plate, which tends to be less than a few dollars each, and win prizes if you hit the right milestones.
Korean Egg Toast
Serving all things egg, Egg Bomb opened earlier this month at 808 North Lamar Blvd., taking over the former Ola Poke location. Egg Bomb specializes in Korean egg drop sandwiches, with toppings like cheese, caramelized onions, avocado, salmon and condiments; “Egg Tots,” or fries with eggs and toppings, as well as coffee and sides. You can also find egg toast and squid ink hotdogs at Oh K-Dog.
Tortas at La Plancha
With a desire to fill the torta-shaped whole they saw in Austin’s fare, co-owning couple Mariha Hinojosa and Julian Richmond opened La Plancha, 1701 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, on July 1. The Mexican sandwiches are served on a bolillo bun with toppings including avocado, barbacoa, queso fresco, refried beans, cheese, pickles and salsa. There are other options: Think papas fritas, street corn and mini-churros.
Ukrainian cuisine to-go
You can take your chicken Kyiv to-to at new takeout-only restaurant U-Cuisine, 5610 N. I-35, which opened in mid-June. Ukrainian chefs and owners Alla Shelest and Mariana Shelestiuk said they are trying to bring a taste of their home country amidst a difficult time in history. Try the chicken Kyiv, a dill and parsley-stuffed chicken breast rolled in breadcrumbs; borsch, a burgundy beetroot soup; Holubtsi, beef and pork cabbage rolls; and lviv syrnyk, a chocolatey raisin cheesecake.
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