It’s true that the Alliance of American Football may not make it to Year 2. It’s also true that the AAF may not make it to Final Four weekend.
Per a source with knowledge of the league’s plans, games will be played this weekend, Week Eight of the inaugural season. Beyond this weekend, however, it’s entirely possible that the plug will be pulled.
The problem arises from the upstart league’s inability to come to an agreement that would result in certain NFL players being available to the AAF. The NFL is willing to allow players who sign “futures” contracts after the conclusion of a given season to play in the AAF. The NFL Players Association has not yet agreed to the terms of what would amount to a modification of the labor deal between the NFL and the players’ union.
Modification of the labor deal is needed in large part because players who are loaned by NFL teams to the AAF would need protection against serious injury suffered while playing in the developmental league. As the source explained it, those players would receive the same payment that a practice squad player receives if he suffers a season-ending injury. Players also would receive extra compensation from the AAF for games played there, but not necessarily the full salary that gets paid to AAF players with no NFL connection.
An agreement, if one were to be reached, also would allow players under “futures” contracts to play in the XFL, given the obvious antitrust ramifications that flow from allowing NFL players to play only in the AAF and not in what will be its top competitor.
Absent a deal between the NFL and the NFLPA, AAF majority owner Tom Dundon quite possibly will choose to stop funding the league. This would force the league either to find another investor who would keep it afloat (like the league did when it tracked down Dundon) or go out of business.
It’s not the first existential threat the AAF has faced this season. As a different source with knowledge of the courtship of Dundon to buy controlling interest in the league has told PFT, the AAF was “done” before Dundon signed on. If he now signs off, the AAF may indeed be out of business.
And that would truly be a shame. Beyond providing game reps for would-be NFL players who otherwise get none, the AAF gives opportunities to coaches, coordinators, executives, officials, and more. There’s currently talk of ensuring that even more former NFL players would get more of the AAF assistant coaching positions, if the league survives.
For now, underscore the word “if.” Dundon’s comments to USA Today were not posturing or grandstanding. Without a mechanism for using NFL players in its 2020 season, the AAF may not make it to the end of its 2019 season.