Earlier this week, the news broke about the Alliance of American Football may have been facing a financial crisis. Luckily, Tom Dundon, the owner of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, was able to step in with a $250 million investment.
So, crisis or not, the league is now on stable financial ground and will be for years to come. But it appears that money is not the only issue the league may be having—or at least one of its teams, the Orlando Apollos.
It seems that the team is going to have to start practicing in Georgia starting March 1. As it turns out, the state of Florida will not cover professional athletes under its workers’ compensation laws. Since the state doesn’t see them as ‘employees,’ athletes can’t file claims for injuries suffered on the job.
Why don’t other leagues have this issue? What about the Miami Dolphins or Jacksonville Jaguars?
Since the NFL and the other major professional sports leagues have been around longer and are more established, they have been able to find an insurance carrier willing to cover them. The AAF apparently hasn’t had any such luck.
“The insurance market covering both professional football and start-up companies is limited,” Alliance Head of Player Operations David Cohen said via the Orlando Sentinel. “… We are continuing to aggressively pursue workers’ compensation coverage that allows our Orlando team to be Florida employees and practice in Florida the entire season.”
Until the issue is resolved, the team will be forced to bus players to a high school in Kingsland, GA, for practice. They will still play their home games at UCF’s stadium in Orlando. But to qualify for coverage in Georgia, they will have to practice in-state for at least 51 percent of their practice days (36 total days).
It will undoubtedly be an inconvenience for the players. But, hopefully, it will not impact how they play. So far, the Apollos are 2-0 and one of the more entertaining teams in the league.
From comments that he has made, AAF founder Charlie Ebersol appears to be trying to spin this as the league doing what it can to protect the players. But it is hard not to wonder why the league wasn’t aware of the issue before the season started. If they were, why did they even have a team in the state of Florida?
Why not go to one of the many states that does not have this kind of issue regarding professional athletes? What other corners has the league tried to cut? Where else did they fail to do their due diligence?