De’Aaron Fox, the starting point guard for the much-maligned Sacramento Kings — a franchise that hasn’t reached the playoffs for 15 straight seasons — has apparently found a new way to invoke public wrath: NFTs.
A project, launched together with Fox’s wife and a development team called “Swipa The Fox” — a nod to his Dora the Explorer-themed nickname — has all but stalled out, leaving thousands of investors holding the bag. Fox announced the suspension of the project on Twitter:
“I want to address an NFT project we launched recently. The project launch was ill timed. I delegated certain aspects to the launch of the NFT in an attempt to partner with professionals. We weren’t happy with the execution & demand on my time and attention during the NBA season... They deserve all of my attention. As I stated previously, I look forward to doing this again the right way and adding value to my NFT holders. I’m excited to learn from the entire NFT community as well. The project will be updated at the conclusion of the NBA season.”
Input reached out to Fox, and the Kings for comment but have not received a response.
Disgruntled supporters, who helped Fox’s project accumulate around $1.3 million (or 522.95 ETH) have fallen back on a Discord server created to figure out next steps and vent frustrations — there is a mix of anger, disbelief, and knowing resignation.
“The more I learned about NFTs the more I realized that there were bad signs in this project, and I actually warned a bunch of the people before the mods started getting aggressive with me,” said urucollector.crypto, a Discord user that was part of the community who acquired 13 NFTs for around 1.85 ETH, or $4,844.
“Since mint you could tell that the management team — which are the people running the show, hired by Fox — were struggling to keep the community happy because the floor price started to drop drastically and people were willing to sell for far below what they paid initially.”
There were two planned drops, one on January 11, involving a more limited pre-sale and then a second one on January 13, which was more widely available. During the first drop, members of the Discord gained early access to a variety of Fox avatars known as profile picture (PFP) NFTs through a process called whitelisting. The entire collection of 6,005 PFPs sold out, for prices ranging from 0.07 (whitelisted price) to 0.085 ETH, or about $183.28 to $222.56.
Just two days later, the second drop, or what was known as the art drop, commenced and five more NFTs, dubbed “Stories,” were released. This collection was essentially a handful of prestige GIFs, and fans who purchased them received “Superfan” status, which gave them an additional Story NFT and added community benefits. “Stories,” ranged in price from 0.12 to 0.3 ETH or about $314 to $785. As of publication, Stories are still available on OpenSea.
“This is De’Aaron Fox, he makes $28 million a year, he’s never quit anything in his life, he was the fifth pick in the draft, this is a guy you can believe in!’”
After the minting process is when things took a nosedive according to Matt McMullen, a New Orleans based NFT collector who had purchased 17 PFP NFTs and 6 “Stories.”
“Within hours of the mint [the NFT collection] was at a third of the cost ... people were worried about the floor price, and now I feel like an asshole but I was one of the guys in [the Discord] saying ‘this is De’Aaron Fox, he makes $28 million a year, he’s never quit anything in his life. He was the fifth pick in the draft, this is a guy you can believe in!’”
What started out as a decline in the project’s perceived value or floor price soon turned into an increasingly distant set of moderators who skirted the timeline of the NFT roadmap. By now, a metaverse plot containing virtual basketball courts for users to compete with each other using their PFPs should have been underway.
The person tasked with developing “Swipa Island” in the virtual space was also ghosted after putting in hours of labor. Destorian Demigod, an Unreal Engine developer who creates games in the metaverse and goes by @Destoria_NFT on Twitter, says Fox and his team never showed any real commitment to following through on the first step in their roadmap.
“I was approached to create Swipa Island in the metaverse... so we discussed the dynamics of what Fox was looking for inside of the island,” he said.
“I put the courts in my game trailer to show that it was real and reinforce the fact that we were working. Doing this I thought would speed up the payment process but of course no money was ever going to be paid to me. It was about five weeks of nothing.”
“Swipa Island,” was just the first promise in a long list of supposed utilities that the project had to offer — many of the splashiest NFT launches now include a more immersive experience that sometimes give investors access to a community and real-world benefits. Some of the project promises included tickets to NBA games, Kings merchandise, five scholarships to the University of Kentucky (Fox’s alma mater), and even opportunities to interact with Fox one-on-one — that is, if users were willing to shell out an additional 0.3 ETH, about $936 at the time.
The successful completion of the project’s roadmap looked grim as February approached but moderators urged the community to be “to be patient,” emphasizing the fact that the project was “Dee’s [De’Aaron Fox] baby.” By mid-February, one of the primary moderators known as “Quick” abruptly cut ties with the initiative for unknown reasons. Two weeks later, De’Aaron Fox would follow suit, announcing his departure in the Discord.
Everything about the situation points to a textbook rug pull, which is a polite way of describing a scenario in which NFT founders raise money for their project only to pull out abruptly, while draining most, if not all, of the funds. Records show that around 474.34 ETH or $1,241,973 was taken out of the project just two days after mint, on January 15, leaving around 48 ETH or $125,679 for the continuation of a road map that hasn’t come to fruition. The funds were transferred between a number of crypto wallets, making them difficult to trace.
In the wake of the rug pull, all of the social media accounts associated with the “Swipa The Fox” NFT collection have been deactivated or made private. The hosting site was also wiped from the internet, as well as the official Discord’s chat history, which in early January had amassed 100,000 users (although this number was suspected to be inflated by bots). Fox has also turned commenting off for all of his personal social accounts.
As far as compensating the community for the NFTs they own, which are virtually worthless now that there is no official backing behind the project, Fox did have a loose plan for reparations. This plan only extends to a handful of investors who achieved “Super Fan” status by purchasing all five of the more expensive “Story” NFTs. Fox stated that he “would buy back the five NFTs and also take community funds to buy jerseys, so that he could sign and then send them back out to those affected.” Keep in mind that the affected in this case make up around 3 percent of the total amount of people who bought into the project.
Matt says Fox actually did follow through on repaying some of the damage, but at a cost.
“He actually paid me back this morning for five of my “Stories” but I had to list them on OpenSea and pay him a 10 percent royalty and 2 percent to OpenSea. We got money back, which is better than what most people got but he still saved 10 percent on the deal!”
Right now it looks like about 2,000 investors will be left holding the proverbial bag. In the wake of everything, Fox has cited a lack of time as one of the reasons the project fell apart, as the ongoing NBA season “stretched himself too thin.”
It remains to be seen how the borderline star will attempt to right the ship once the season is over, but Sean Cunningham, a Sacramento Kings Radio Reporter, did provide an update after last night’s game against the Denver Nuggets:
“I actually had a few minutes to talk to Fox off camera to hear his side of things,” wrote Cunningham on Discord.
“He told me he would be willing to sit down with me in the future to discuss what happened in detail and his plans for the future, as well as how to make things right.”