Hey, remember when the Alliance of American Football had a great opening weekend?
That was less than two months ago, and little has gone right since. Not long after some good opening weekend television ratings and nearly universal positive buzz, there was a troubling story about the league needing a huge investment from Tom Dundon, owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, to make payroll.
That $250 million investment was good news for the league at the time. But the man who made that investment said the league could decide to fold, if it can’t use young NFL players and be the NFL’s developmental league.
AAF chairman: League could be discontinued
Dundon gave strong comments to USA Today about being unable to come to an agreement with the NFL Players Association over the use of young NFL players in the AAF.
"If the players union is not going to give us young players, we can't be a development league," Dundon, who became the league’s chairman with the February investment, told USA Today. "We are looking at our options, one of which is discontinuing the league."
That’s an extreme threat, and it’s rather shocking if the AAF’s entire plan for survival after just one season depended on borrowing NFL players. An NFLPA source told USA Today there’s a concern over CBA violations involved with letting the AAF borrow players. The CBA restricts the amount of offseason work players can do, in order to give them enough time to rest. Young players could feel pressure to play in the AAF, which theoretically would mean they’re playing football year-round if you count their NFL teams’ offseason programs.
Dundon told USA Today the league is considering its options and plans to make a decision on the league’s future in the next two days.
AAF’s future in doubt
The AAF had a splashy first weekend, but late in its inaugural regular season it has mostly become an afterthought. The same thing has happened to other startup football leagues, most notably the XFL in 2001.
The AAF debuted this season and the new XFL is scheduled to start next year. It has seemed for a long time that there was room in the sporting landscape for a second professional football league. It seemed the AAF did many things right, like focusing on the quality of the on-field product and not competing against the NFL.
But the first season isn’t even done yet and its chairman is already wondering aloud if the league will be discontinued. That’s a bad sign for the future.
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