nflFormer AAF players are now being charged for their team hotel rooms, in more news of how the league’s shuttering has been a complete mess.
On Tuesday, the Alliance of American Football shuttered operations, just eight weeks into its fledgling season, with seemingly no explanation. The news was confirmed by the league’s co-founder Bill Polian, who placed the blame for the decision on NHL Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon, who effectively took over the league when he invested $250 million in it following Week 1.
The move has unemployed scores of football players who were hoping that the AAF would lead to new opportunities in the NFL. Now, it has left them without jobs and with unexpected debts.
Tight end Adrien Robinson, who played for the Memphis Express, Tweeted on Thursday that he has been charged “over $2,500” by the team hotel. He called the bank, as well as the Express’ team president, and found that he’s left to dispute the charges himself. He also noted that the same thing has happened to other players.
This isn’t the only example of the AAF leaving its players high and dry. Former NFL player and color analyst for the San Diego Fleet, Rich Ohrnberger, has detailed other ways the league has abandoned all responsibility for the eight rosters’ worth of employees. Memphis players were kicked out of their hotel — the same one mentioned by Robinson above — like evicted tenants, injured players are now completely on the hook for their own health care and rehabilitation and the entire league was given a form letter announcing the AAF’s dissolution, signed anonymously.
Remember: These aren’t NFL superstars, playing on NFL-level contracts. Their three-year, non-guaranteed contracts paid players just $70,000 for the first and now, only, season, with those deals terminating when the AAF shuttered. Polian told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that, “When Mr. Dundon took over, it was the belief of my co-founder, Charlie Ebersol, and myself that we would finish the season, pay our creditors, and make the necessary adjustments to move forward in a manner that made economic sense for all.”
If that’s the case, then there should be more than enough cash left over to, at the very least, be able to cover bills the players were never expected to shoulder in the first place. It’s not a gesture of courtesy, but rather about doing what’s right. But expecting even basic courtesy from the powers-that-be in the AAF seems to be wishful thinking, especially when said powers are too cowardly to sign a letter or give a concrete reason for why the league abruptly ceased operations with two regular-season weeks and a postseason left to play.
Instead, the AAF Tweeted on Thursday that its former players “are authorized to sign with NFL clubs,” another insult given that the players were no longer under contract two days earlier and were legally authorized to do whatever they want in order to secure gainful employment.
What was supposed to be a feel-good experiment with spring football has now turned into a financial quagmire — and not for Dundon, Polian and Ebersol, but for the very players the league was designed to support and showcase.