While the future once appeared bright for the Alliance of American Football, the realities of the recent investment from Tom Dundon became starkly apparent after it emerged that the majority owner had decided to suspend operations just eight weeks into the inaugural season.
Sources: The AAF will suspend all football operations today. New owner Tom Dundon will lose approximately $70 million on his investment. Dundon makes decision against wishes of league co-founders Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian.— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 2, 2019
Initially hailed as the savior of the AAF when it was reported he had invested $250 million into the league just a few months ago, Dundon opted to pull the plug when it became clear that he would not be getting the immediate cooperation from the NFLPA that he was looking for. Seeking a formal affiliation with the NFL that would guarantee the fledgling league players at the fringe of NFL rosters and also significantly increase the value of his investment, Dundon’s attempts to leverage the NFLPA into giving him the agreement he wanted have unsurprisingly fallen flat.
His decision to end play at this stage of the season appears to have come as a surprise to the rest of the AAF, including co-founders Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian, with Polian issuing this statement on Tuesday and reported by Darren Rovell of The Action Network.
“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.”
“The momentum generated by our players, coaches and football staff had us well positioned for future success. Regrettably, we will not have that opportunity …”
“I sincerely regret that many that believed in this project will see their hopes and efforts unrewarded. They gave their best for which I am deeply grateful. Unfortunately, Mr. Dundon has elected this course of action.”
AAF employees were informed of the league’s suspension via a somewhat impersonal mass email sent out to players, coaches and staff members alike. A note that also hints at the AAF’s hopes to return with new investment in 2020.
The email #AAF employees were sent minutes ago, announcing the almost assured end of their inaugural season and the immediate suspension of their league’s operations. (Via an AAF source.) pic.twitter.com/iS2rPzXy4d— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) April 2, 2019
And as the AAF disintegrates, the truth behind the way the league was poorly managed is just starting to emerge.
Source says AAF teams making players pay for their own flights home. What a clown show this was.— Robert Klemko (@RobertKlemko) April 2, 2019
AAF players contracts are immediately terminated and there is no severance pay. Last paycheck was for last week’s game.— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 3, 2019
Couple other cost-cutting AAF details I unearthed/found interesting ...— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 2, 2019
• Only coaches/players were allowed eat on the team plane. Docs, trainers, equipment guys weren't fed.
• Night-before-game team dinners were eliminated. Players got a $30 per diem instead.
While some reports have attempted to lay the blame for league’s failure at the feet of the NFL and NFLPA for failing to negotiate with the AAF, it would seem that most blame Dundon for the league’s premature end.
I know the @NFLPA felt this way, and I agree: Saying that their non-involvement in @theAAF sunk the league is a total red herring.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) April 3, 2019
If you think NFL teams allocating the 57th and 58th players on their rosters to play in a minor league in March was going to be a game-changer ...
Final note on the AAF: The league folding has less to do w/the viability of the product and more to do with what happens when you take the wrong $. They took $ from the wrong person in lead investor Reggie Fowler, which forced them to take $ from the wrong person in Tom Dundon.— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) April 3, 2019
For players like former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Jamar Summers who was one of the AAF’s standout performers, the exposure the league gave him should be enough to earn him a spot in an NFL training camp this year. But for many of the other players in the league, their best shot of ever playing professional football again might be when the XFL launches in 2020.