Home Columns Start, Sit & Red Flags (Making Sense of the Sportstopia Scandal)
Uncovering the Truth About the Sportstopia Scandal & Daryl Synder

Start, Sit & Red Flags (Making Sense of the Sportstopia Scandal)

by Seth Woolcock

“Start, Sit & Seth” is the original column of In-Between Media, bridging feel-good lifestyle advice with redraft fantasy football analysis. Consistently following Seth Woolcock’s journey as a young creator, this series is now in its sixth season. Join him in this edition as he uncovers the story behind and lessons learned from the Sportstopia scandal.

It’s only human to assume best intent, and hindsight is always 20/20.

Still, being in tune with warning signs and asking questions should always be encouraged. It’s those pesky kids, the whistleblowers, who are the ones that prevent wrongdoing from going any further. 

There is now yet another news bulletin captivating the headlines of the fantasy sports and gaming industry – the very one I call home – from which I think we can all learn a lesson. 

No, it’s not another pervy podcast host, AI writing aliases or a toxic Twitter account this time. Instead, it’s a group of content creators and industry professionals who were hoodwinked.

This is their story.

Enter Ed Williams

Unfortunately, in every tale of deception comes a protagonist, a character you’re rooting for that’s duped worse than everybody.

In this case, it’s Ed Williams, 42, of Connecticut. 

From the very beginning of his career, Ed has seemingly always done things by the book. He majored in journalism and sports communication at Marist College, graduating in 2003. He put his time in as a sports editor for a Connecticut-based weekly paper. Then, it was off to the WWE for two years in the mid-2000s, working as an assignment and content editor.

Ultimately, Ed wound up at NBC Sports, where he would spend the next 16 years, eventually working his way up to the Senior Director of Content (Betting/Gaming).

“I’ve been a user of Rotoworld and fantasy in general since high school, so I jumped at the opportunity,” Ed said in a Dec. 13 interview. “I’ve been very fortunate with some of my stops, being able to call them dream jobs. Whether it was WWE – I’ve been a fan since I was three years old – then NBC Sports, and then even the step further with fantasy and sports betting. So, it’s been a cool journey.”

Despite what appeared like a successful rebrand of the company’s fantasy/sports betting division of Rotoworld to NBC Sports Edge, Ed was included in the company’s Stamford, Conn.-based layoffs of Dec. 2022.

“[Rotoworld was] family,” Ed said. “That was one of the hardest parts about being laid off I think, is the relationships that we built. It was a really close-knit team… I communicated with the writers at all hours of the day. But I didn’t mind it. It was just part of the job… I took a lot of pride in it, especially a big brand like NBC Sports. To know we were associated with that was really cool.”

Ed was out on his own for the first time in over a decade and a half, but he now had the experience and Rolodex that comes with spending that long in the industry. He eventually landed on trying his hand at consulting, forming his own firm, Macklyn Sports Media Consulting, named after his two daughters.

By June, he had secured his first client, Sharp Football Analysis, but still had bandwidth for more work. That’s when he joined the advisory group of Toppem Sports, where he met the now-infamous Daryl Snyder.

Almost Too Good To Be True

On the surface, Snyder seemed like your typical business tycoon trying to dip his hands into the rapidly growing fantasy gaming world. He presented Ed with the idea of Sportstopia, a “​​one-stop-shop for all things fantasy sports and gaming” that ultimately promoted Daryl’s Fantasy Sports Logic DFS Contrarian Edge Optimizer.

“I said, ‘Well, good timing – that’s kind of in my wheelhouse, and I still have a lot of bandwidth to bring on a big project,’” Ed said. “So I pitched him a content plan, a content budget, and negotiated my salary. [Daryl] greenlit everything, and away we away we went with the goal of, OK, let’s build this content team. Let’s build the site, and let’s try to launch in time for football.”

In not much more than a month, a team was assembled, a site was built and partnerships were established with vendors, such as Bettor Sports Network, for their video, audio and socials. Ed had the opportunity to build a team of his people, some of whom were former Rotoworld employees and others who had made their own name one way or another in the space.

“It was amazing… It was a great experience [before we knew of the problems coming]. I knew what my budget [for my team] was. So, as long as I stayed within my budget, I had full autonomy to build the team, which was awesome. So I went into it with the goal of creating a very diverse team, not just in terms of ethnicity, gender – you know what people usually associate with diversity – but also in their skill sets.”

It was somehow business as usual by NFL kickoff. Ed and the limited content team that had been working in August were paid during September and trekked forward with eagerness toward the new venture.

Sportstopia: Fueling Your Fantasy Fraud

However, by the end of that month, things had begun getting sketchy.

“By the time the [September] invoices are submitted, that’s when some more warning signs started coming around, like some of the excuses he was to giving us why the payments were late… I was being paid twice a month. My first payment for September did come in, but it came in late, and it came in two different payments – A slight red flag, but it did come in. At the end of September, my second invoice wasn’t paid, and nobody’s on the content team was paid.”

Once October rolled around, it was clear to Ed and his newly assembled content team that the lies were piling up, and the money was just not there. Meanwhile, Daryl was still having meetings about possible acquisitions and signing Letters of Intent (LOIs) like this whole inter-company crisis wasn’t even happening.

Ed and his team then alerted Daryl that if they hadn’t received payment by the end of the month or at least some sign of goodwill, they would have to pause production. 

“As we got deeper and deeper, he would tell me a little more and more kind of about the back story,” Ed said. “… Putting the pieces together, I believe he had a verbal commitment for an investment, or at least what he thought was a verbal commitment… for like $500K when I was coming on board, and that’s why he’s now greenlit everything – thinking that money was already there. It never was. But we [the content team] didn’t realize that until it was too late.”

Despite being obviously angry and upset about the situation, Ed doesn’t think that Daryl had any malicious intent. More so that he doesn’t believe he is proficient in business or finances. 

Maybe an investor did back out at the last second; it does happen from time to time. Or perhaps Daryl just had “delusions of grandeur,” as Ed called it, that it would all pay for itself right away.

Either way, it appears that Ed handled everything very democratically within his team, making sure everyone was involved in the decision-making. This includes their decision to go public by December if no payments had been received.

Cody Carpentier, a well-known NFL Draft analyst, tweeted this on Dec. 4:

It also wasn’t just the fantasy football community affected, as Christopher Crawford, an MLB content creator, had this to say about how the situation affected him:

Ed, of course, standing alongside his team, said this in his public statement:

Playing the Startup Game

I’m no judge, jury or executioner, just someone trying to also do things in this industry the right way. So, returning to some of my own Big-J journalism roots, here’s what I can tell you about Daryl Snyder and Sportstopia.

For Snyder being a “well-known name in the entrepreneurial community,” as his now-deleted bio at Toppem Sports reads, he sure was the CEO and in leadership roles for a lot of companies nobody has ever heard of. 

Let’s look at a couple:

  • Cryptosumer: Literally just an Instagram account pushing everything from crypto mining to organic spices.
  • Prospect Planet: A supposed Software As a Service (SAAS) company that Daryl’s bio described as “way ahead of its time.” Yet, not even the best internet sleuths could track down actual proof that it existed.
  • Original2Digital Corporation: Again, not a trace of it aside from Daryl’s now-deleted LinkedIn posts.
  • CTS90: An actual real company that produced a cognitive technology that Daryl is quoted as saying the following about: “I feel increased focus and processing speed every day. It’s so super simple yet extremely powerful. As a male in my mid ’60s I believe the future expansion of processing speed of my brain is limitless.” OK then.
  • Confidebat: Another company with zero track record of actually existing that is claimed to be a crypto loan platform in this article.

From organic dieting to crypto and NFTs, Daryl was seemingly playing business in whatever the latest trend was. It just so happened that fantasy sports and, more specifically, DFS, was his latest victim.

However, perhaps the biggest clue that removes a lot of my assumption of best intent in Daryl is what’s discovered in an unrelated headline when searching the business address of 30N Gould St., Ste R, Sheridan, Wyo. 

“Another Scam Recorded From Business Related to 30 N. Gould St. Registered Agent”

While it’s unclear if this was just a burner address used for the business or one listed for the LLC’s commercial registered agent, it’s still strange to have it in the state of Wyoming and not California, where Daryl supposedly took many of his Sportstopia work meetings from his home in La Jolla, Calif.

Snyder and Sportstopia did not respond to our Dec. 5 email requesting a statement regarding the situation.

I don’t know Daryl Snyder, and – based on what I’ve discovered about the throne of lies he sits on in his coastal elitist home – I don’t know if anyone really does.

Still,  a few things are for certain:

Anyone like him, who would do wrong by so many good people in this space, doesn’t deserve the privilege to be in it. 

Red flags were also scattered throughout this situation, reminding us never to waver from finding the truth. 

“Do as much due diligence as you can,” Ed said. “Don’t be afraid to question things… Don’t be afraid to speak up.”

Bigger Than Ball

I would usually leave readers with a happy ending, a connection back to fantasy football – probably something about identifying red flags on our fantasy teams throughout the season in this case – and my weekly start/sits. 

But not this time. As of right now, there is no happy ending. My fellow industry colleagues being owed upwards of $60K just feels more important than fantasy football and deserves 100% of the focus this week.

I’ve written 113 editions of this column prior to today’s. I’ve covered heavy topics from train derailment disasters, untimely deaths, recovery from abusive relationships, mental health journeys and my own battle of overcoming trauma and adversity. While I’ve been choked up from telling some of these stories, none have ever struck a nerve with me like this, and I have never opted to forgo the start/sits. It is called “Start, Sit & Seth,” after all. This one just cuts too deep. If you do need my start/sits for the first round of your fantasy football, I won’t leave you hanging; tune into our Friday podcast episode for those. 

Instead, I’ll leave you with how the former staff of Sportstopia is being affected and how we can help.

“Some of these people have families, little kids,” Ed said. “I have two little kids. Some people are just out of college on their own for the first time and can’t make rent now. So look, I realize there’s a lot of other stuff going on in this world right now that probably seems a lot worse than what we’re going through, but everything impacts everybody a little differently.”

This is the part where we, the fantasy football community, step up and help pick back up our own. If you’re able, please join the cause and donate to help cover the income lost by the Sportstopia staff members via their GoFundMe.

If you have a story that you would like to share for an opportunity to be featured in an upcoming edition of “Start, Sit & Seth,” please reach out.

And for more fantasy football and uplifting content, especially start/sit advice, you can find me on Twitter @Between_SethFF.

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1 comment

How To Build a Fantasy Sports Startup + Week 17 Start/Sits (2023) December 29, 2023 - 12:34 pm

[…] came the Sportstopia scandal. Then it was Dez Bryant, former NFL receiver and self-proclaimed sports innovator and founder of […]

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