Six days after majority owner Tom Dundon threatened to shutter the Alliance of American Football, the league will reportedly suspend all football operations. There were two weeks left in the regular season schedule as well as a four-team postseason, and it now appears that neither will ever happen.
The reports come courtesy of Mike Florio and Darren Rovell, with Florio first reporting this morning that the league is “moving in [the] direction” of folding. It will reportedly cost another $20 million to keep the league afloat for the duration of the season, and Dundon, the league’s chief financier, seems to be unwilling to pony up even more cash.
Dundon famously bailed out the league after two weeks for a reported $250 million, though Rovell reports that Dundon has really been funding the league on a week-to-week basis and has paid about $70 million so far. He also took over the league’s board, which meant he had “unilateral” decision making power. Once Dundon took over, he reportedly accelerated the league’s original timeline that was concocted by co-founders Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian:
Ebersol and Polian’s plan was to develop the league for three years on its own before becoming a feeder system to the NFL. Dundon, however, wanted to create that minor league relationship immediately and sought to use the leverage of folding the AAF to get a deal with the NFL Players Association to better insure a flow between leagues.
The AAF had an apparently productive call with the NFLPA yesterday about a potential relationship, which potentially seemed like a sign that Dundon’s threat to close the league had achieved its purpose. However, today’s news reportedly caught several NFL executives off guard, which could hint that Dundon didn’t necessarily want to keep the AAF going at all.
Dundon has reportedly been covering payroll, though he hasn’t been paying vendors and it’s not clear who’s on the hook for that bill. Albert Breer passes along a claim that Dundon only wanted to take over the league so he could strip it for its gambling and technology intellectual property, though Rovell reports that would not be strictly legal. (Remember, it’s not like shady business shit is beneath Dundon.)
AAF players seem to have collected their final paycheck already (Johnny Manziel’s got some advice about that), and hopefully some of them can eventually earn another NFL or CFL contract. I wouldn’t count on that XFL reboot sticking around for decades.
UPDATE (7:30 p.m. ET): The AAF has now officially suspended operations for the remainder of this season. Albert Breer has the text of an email that was sent to AAF personnel, informing them of the move:
Things are proceeding with characteristic ridiculousness: