For anyone who held out hope that the Alliance of American Football’s “suspension of operations” earlier this month didn’t mean the league had folded, well, that hope is gone.
It passed away on Wednesday surrounded by friends, family, lawyers and creditors.
An official release from what is left of the AAF delivered the solemn news:
“We are deeply disappointed to be taking this action. The AAF was created to be a dynamic, developmental professional football league powered by an unprecedented alliance between players, fans and the game. The AAF strove to create new opportunities for talented players, coaches, executives and officials while providing an exciting experience for fans. We are proud of the fact that our teams and players delivered on that goal.
“We thank our players, coaches and employees for their commitment to the game of football and to this venture. Our fans believed in the AAF from the beginning, and we thank them for their support. We are hopeful that our players, coaches and others will find opportunities to pursue their football dreams in the future.
“The AAF is committed to ensuring that our bankruptcy proceeds in an efficient and orderly manner. Pursuant to the bankruptcy laws, a trustee will be empowered to resolve all matters related to the AAF’s remaining assets and liabilities, including ongoing matters related to player contracts.”
I think most of use realized it was already gone, but filing for bankruptcy now means all future Alliance games will be played in court, and it’ll be a no-win situation for the latest spring gridiron upstart to flame out.
What a mess.
When the league had its rollout last year I bragged about what a first-class operation it seemed to be and how co-founders Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian were saying and doing all the right things.
They told us there was enough funding to ensure three seasons without another dime coming in and I believed them because, apparently, I still have a blind spot when it comes to my own gullibility.
Instead, this league was on shaky ground from the get-go and never had much of a chance.
Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon was brought in to effectively take over the league early in the season (reportedly pledging $250 million), and Ebersol insisted it was an investment, not a bailout.
I bought it, and that was stupid on my part.
When there are reports that a league needs an infusion of cash to survive, those reports usually have some substance.
Knowing what we know now, had Dundon not come aboard it would’ve likely died after a couple of weeks instead of eight (it closed shop with two weeks of the regular season remaining).
And then when Dundon couldn’t work out a deal with the NFL to make the AAF its official developmental league, he pulled the plug before more of his money went down the drain.
In the bankruptcy filings (first reported by Front Office Sports), we learn that the league claims assets of $11.3 million and liabilities totaling $48.3 million.
On the bright side, the league still has $536,160.68 in cash.
(Just kidding … there is no bright side. This is a disaster).
Throw in the fact that former employees and some players have filed lawsuits against league officials (the word “fraud” seems to come up a lot) and you’re left with an organization that will ultimately be remembered for failing its workers, partners and fans.
The NFL has already signed several former AAF players, which is great. And hopefully soon the Canadian Football League will be able to do the same.
The Alliance of American Football was a second chance circuit, and in that respect it served its purpose for those who are moving on and moving up.
But in the annals of professional sports, it’ll go down as just another league destined to die young.