Every week, another current or former pro athlete endorses a CBD brand.
The list of CBD endorsers runs the gamut from NBA to NFL to pro golf, young and old, male and female. To name just a few: Rob Gronkowski, Tiki Barber, Carson Palmer, Nate Burleson, and Ricky Williams (all NFL); Greg Norman and Bubba Watson (golf); Paul Pierce, Lamar Odom, Jay Williams, and John Salley (NBA); Riley Cote and Ryan VandenBussche (NHL); Mike Tyson and Nate Diaz (fighters); Kerri Walsh Jennings (volleyball); Megan Rapinoe (soccer); Ryan Sheckler (skateboarding); and Olympic medalists like Lolo Jones and Amy Van Dyken are all talking up the benefits of CBD. Some of them have launched their own brands, others have signed on as ambassadors of existing brands.
“It’s like a floodgate has opened,” says Olympic hurdler and bobsledder Lolo Jones, who signed a deal with CBDMD, which was formerly called Level Brands and trades on the Nasdaq (YCBD).
Jones joins a list of 40 athletes CBDMD has brought on board, a huge number for a company that has only been selling products since 2017.
Brightfield Group estimates the CBD industry will hit $5 billion in sales for 2019, an eye-popping (and hard to believe) 706% jump over 2018.
If the athletes who pump CBD are to be believed, it is a miracle drug that can help you sleep better, calm you down, heal your injuries, soothe your aching muscles, and make your dog happier. But the health benefits of CBD are still in contention, and very little definitive data exists that verifies the claims these companies make about their products.
The explosion of CBD has left many consumers confused. “If I was a regular consumer, I would be confused too,” Jones acknowledges.
So, why has the CBD floodgate opened if CBD is still so new and unproven by science?
For Jones, it’s about her sport lifting its ban on the product. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed CBD from its list of banned substances in 2018. As a result, Jones says, “Now athletes are trying to find the right CBD from a trustworthy company that they can actually use while they’re training and not fail a drug test.” Jones and Bubba Watson have both said they visited CBDMD’s lab before signing as ambassadors, and confirmed the products are done cleanly to avoid contamination.
“I have done a ton of research on this, and I have tried out different ones,” Jones says, “because I’m a 37-year-old Olympian. I need all the help I can get. When I wake up in the morning, I feel like an 80-year-old sometimes. I’ve aged in dog years.” She also has neck pain, she says, due to whiplash from a bobsled crash.
Former NFL quarterback Carson Palmer sounded a very similar note in an interview with Yahoo Finance last month: “After playing for 15 years I’ve got a lot of aches and pains, a lot of sorenesses, and I’ve also got four young kids I’m chasing around. It’s a product that has helped me continue to be able to play.”
But Palmer cautions consumers: “It’s not a miracle drug. If you have an issue that you need surgery on—like myself, I’m going to need a hip replacement at some point, I’m just not ready to go under the knife and do that hip replacement right now. This product helps my hip. But it is not a miracle drug cure-all.”
As more and more athletes get approached by CBD brands (many of them brand new, unproven brands) they have a lot of choice, but also the risk of endorsing one that fails. “It’s like shoe companies,” Jones says. “You can go get a cheap pair of shoes, but then it’s a nightmare running in them.”
Daniel Roberts is the sports business writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.