NEW YORK - If you went shopping at the NBA flagship store on Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan on Monday, you may have noticed some very enthusiastic greeters or even very tall, muscular cashiers working at the register.
Those greeters and people on the floor of the store wearing name tags were actually NFL players participating in the NFL Players Association externship program. The three-week internship is called an "externship," representing the real-world experience the pro sports players get to participate in.
"There's been a lot that's been thrown at us and that's the cool part about it, we got to touch a lot of different aspects of the business," NFL free agent Charles Johnson, who has played on six teams including the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings, told FOX 5 NY.
He said he loved learning and working hands-on in accounting and marketing.
"Then we got to work with the operations side and we had a contest of how quick we could get the packages out, and I was like, 'Bro that's fun,' especially since we are all competitive anyway—it started a competition between players," he added.
The players at the NBA Store are all interning for the retail, e-commerce and memorabilia company Fanatics, which operates both the NBA and NHL brick-and-mortar stores in Manhattan.
Fanatics is one of 31 companies and organizations that partner with the NFL Players Association to assist players in realizing their value and potential beyond football.
While Fanatics has participated in the externship program for six years, this year the company also partnered with the NHL Alumni Association. This is giving 17-year NHL veteran and 2012 Stanley Cup champion Ethan Moreau an opportunity to take a shot at business after years of scouting and coaching hockey.
D.J. White, currently on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad roster, majored in business administration at Georgia Tech. At the NBA Store, he tried his hand at customizing basketball jerseys. As he created a Clippers jersey for his favorite NBA player, Kawhi Leonard, he adjusted the lettering on the back of the jersey to spell out Leonard's nickname, "Klaw."
"I feel like the 'L' and the 'A' are right off the 'NBA,'" said White as he was about the use the hot press to seal the jersey letters.
White wants to continue playing football professionally as long as he can but is very much preparing for what's next after his playing days are over.
"With the NFL, you never know when that time's going to come, whether it's injury or business, so you want to make sure you have a Plan B," White said. "Ultimately, my career goal is to build my own business. Not exactly sure what that is yet, but getting a chance to learn from the top guys here has been great."
After working half the day in the NBA Store, the NFL players and former NHL player, Moreau, headed over to the NHL Store for the rest of their workday. Later in the week, they will have lunch with the founder of Fanatics, Michael Rubin. It's all part of the immersive externship experience to help these professional athletes figure out what careers they want to pursue after their playing days are over.