Less than two months after kicking off its inaugural season, the AAF is dead. All the league’s promises about providing a direct line to the NFL and supporting players after their careers are over turned out to be nothing more than marketing bullshit.
Majority owner Thomas Dundon as well as founders Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian are all rich, and they’ll get to keep working in pro sports even though this catastrophe should stick with them for the remainder of their careers. Meanwhile, the people actually playing football were thrown out on their asses this week. The sudden demise of the league, possibly carried out to help Dundon strip it for its proprietary technology, completely screwed over the AAF’s players.
In the first half of the Salt Lake Stallions’ game against the San Diego Fleet last weekend, Stallions linebacker Gionni Paul went to break up a third-down pass when he was sandwiched by his teammate. He went down with what was later diagnosed as a broken arm, ending his season. When the AAF folded, Paul’s medical care went along with it. He has no team-provided insurance. “They basically said we on our own,” he told Deadspin. Paul also said he was kicked out of the apartment the Stallions set him up in, leaving him scrambling for a place to live.
Paul wasn’t the only one. Birmingham Iron nose tackle Joshua Frazier is also on the hook for his own medical care, without any support from the team or health insurance. Players say they had no advance warning from the league that the whole operation was going to fold. They found out things were dire when Pro Football Talk reported Tuesday morning that the league was in trouble. Players didn’t receive any severance pay, and they had to pay their own way home.
Memphis Express fullback Anthony Manzo-Lewis had to drive 17 hours home to New Jersey after he too was kicked out the hotel room he was staying in. Memphis players reportedly returned to the hotel to find their belongings waiting for them in piles in the lobby.
Memphis Express lineman Logan Tulley-Tillman had it even worse. Tulley-Tillman signed with Memphis in early March, and he was provided with a room he was told he wouldn’t have to pay for. However, when the Express ceased operations, he was left on the hook. “We were told housing was free, he said. “I got charged $1,781 when I was only there less than three weeks and a whole month only costs $700.” When Deadspin asked Tulley-Tillman whether the team or league offered him any help or even advice, he said, “No, [they] cut me off and said they can’t do anything for me.”
AAF players will not have any more opportunities to show out for NFL teams, though with the legal dissolution of the league, they can at least now try to find new jobs. Yahoo Sports’ Terez Paylor reported this morning that the NFL sent a memo to its 32 teams, warning them not to engage with any players or their agents until the AAF was formally disbanded. In the afternoon, the AAF’s Twitter account popped up after two days of silence with a declaration:
Are you a former AAF player or employee who wants to talk? Drop a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update, 3:23 p.m. ET: Here’s another Memphis player who got screwed over.