By Wanda Wiedman // @WandaW63
Eight weeks ago, the first game of the Alliance of American Football took the stage. Led by some of the most respected football minds in the history of the NFL, the AAF would be fueled by hungry athletes eager to display their talents in hopes of playing in the NFL once again
The first team to launch was the Orlando Apollos led by Steve Spurrier, and boy did he make it fun to watch! He did not skip a beat in his play calling and building a team on both sides of the ball. By June of 2018, the league had put together eight teams, signing 100 players.
They even went as far as having their own Scouting Combine, allowing players that were cut from the NFL an opportunity to fine tune their skills with a possible return to the big league. Each player signed a three-year, non-guaranteed contract worth $250,000, with performance-based incentives to earn more.
After the NFL Super Bowl ended, the desire to watch football was still in the hearts of fans who just didn’t want the game of football to end. Having a spring league fed that thirst and allowed states with no professional football teams an opportunity to experience a team they could call their own.
But that has all been shattered by one man, Tom Dundon. In February of 2019, the league announced that Dundon, an investor in the Carolina Hurricanes (NHL) and TopGolf, agreed to invest $250 million into the new league. With that came the title of Chairman and a majority stake in the league in exchange for his investment. In reality, the $250M would be invested in increments but with that came the clause that Dundon would reserve the right to pull out of the league at any time. So far only $70 million had been put into the AAF.
The plan was to have the AAF and the NFL work a system of “loaning” players. This would be achieved by assigning third-string quarterbacks and other players from the bottom half of their roster and practice squads to the AAF. This was done with hopes of gaining more playing time in a similar system. This isn’t a new idea, as it was used in the NFL Europe league. However, this would in effect make the AAF a developmental league of the NFL. Dundon, in return, wanted the NFL’s bargaining agreement to protect the AAF players who may get injured and miss playing time. This would ensure players would still earn a salary from the NFL during their recovery.
It’s not surprising that the NFLPA would be reluctant to cooperate. The NFL cartel has monopolized the sport for decades. You may recall the time the USFL tried to muscle their way into the National Football League, with the intentions of merging the two. But thanks to Donald Trump and other investors, it cost them everything when they sued for the right to share the stage. The USFL proved their point but cost them the league, that lasted only three years.
But it appears that Dundon never had intentions of seeing his investment through. He knew how difficult it would be to worm his way into the NFL. He may have been trying to use the league as a platform for a much bigger payout – sports betting. What many fans do not know is that MGM Resorts International made an investment in the AAF tech platform. MGM entered a three-year sponsorship agreement to become the league’s official sports betting sponsor and exclusive gaming partner. The deal would be the first time a sports organization could sell exclusive in-game betting rights to a sportsbook. The technology to achieve this was worth the cost to Dundon, who can now implement this to other organizations.
The $70 million dollar loss was just a drop in the bucket. But the players trying to achieve their dreams to play the game they love, became collateral damage. According to several players and media sources on Twitter, they were kicked out of their rooms and told to go home.
Unorganized is an understatement…kicked out of our rooms (that weren’t paid apparently) 17 hours away from home with a car full of my belongings and nowhere to go…#JoinTheAlliance @TheAAF @CharlieEbersol @TDCanes @espn @BleacherReport @aafexpress
— Anthony Manzo-Lewis (@amanzolewis) April 2, 2019
Literally dropped everything I had going on and just signed an @TheAAF contract yesterday at 9pm and was excited to go back to doing what I loved. And in less than 24 hours the league is cancelled, yet it’s “about the players”. I’m sick.
— Taiwan Jones (@TJ_Spartan34) April 2, 2019
It was not just a game to these coaches, players, and staff. This was about a dream of playing on the big stage once again. It was about a future that would provide for their families and a livelihood that would pay off with hard work and pride. Each one of these players left it all on the field and these coaches instilled in them an even greater love for the game of football. The league did not fall because it did not work. The AAF fell because it gave up the majority of its rights to one man’s greed for power.
Rest in peace AAF.
Talk about the demise of the AAF with Wanda on Twitter @WandaW63