AAF refuses to release players for possible CFL employment

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The messy implosion of the Alliance of American Football continues.

The AAF is now refusing to allow players under contract to the defunct league to sign with CFL teams, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Apparently, the AAF views the contracts as league assets that, in theory, can be sold, as the AAF tries to raise money in order to pay its many debts via bankruptcy proceedings.

Sold to whom, you ask? To the CFL, apparently.

It’s unclear why the AAF didn’t take that position as to the NFL. The AAF affirmatively released all players to sign with NFL clubs on April 4.

Regardless of any legal niceties, this will become another P.R. disaster for a league that has essentially breached all player contracts by shutting down. Of course, P.R. is the least of the concerns for those who may find themselves personally on the hook for liabilities incurred by a league that lacked proper funding to conclude a full season.

For them, the goal becomes raising as much money as possible, even if that means taking unpopular and/or unwarranted positions that likely will be immediately challenged in court, adding to the burgeoning docket of lawsuits that will last far longer than the league’s only season did.

50 responses to “AAF refuses to release players for possible CFL employment

  1. Unbelievable….Enjoyed the product, but this league was clearly run by idiots.

  2. I wonder if it’s going to cost them less to release the players or to be sued en masse by the players for being stupid.

    What business folds and then claims they still can impose their will on their workers?

  3. How can a business that can’t hold up its end of a contract and isn’t paying the players, keep them from seeking employment within the same field anywhere they can find it?

  4. What absolute scum. This shouldn’t hold up in bankruptcy court; the AAF is in breach of contract for all players.

  5. By the way, I’m sure the AAF knows they’ve breached the contracts. This is a move to get the players to sign releases, so that they’ll agree to forego unpaid wages and unreimbursed, out of pocket expenses.

    It’s a con game. Despite that the bankruptcy court will rule against the AAF, players, particularly those desperate and without legal representation will sign.

    Bill Polian and Tom Dundon are weasels.

  6. they are going to get 0.00001 cents on the dollar, and lose some lawsuits on top of it.

  7. … and the CFL – a pauper by North American pro league standards – has quickly folded.

  8. I don’t get how this has any legal footing at all. The CFL should do the right thing and just sign whoever they want, daring the AAF to do something about it.

  9. I would think the “Right To Work” law would apply. Essentially the AAF has laid off all their employees and now they don’t want them to work somewhere else? CFL tell the AAF to pound sand and sign the players.

  10. I dont think these contracts exist any more. They would have been pretty well breached then the AAF stopped paying. Im pretty sure these players are all free agents that can do as they please.

  11. Pretty certain that a judge would side with the players on this one. Your league has folded. You are now trying to stop them from earning a living. Sounds like a great company this AAF. Sooooooo glad I watched zero of their games. Say what you will about Vince McMahon, but he pays/treats his employee’s well. Can’t wait for the XFL 2.0.

  12. I thought the point of the developmental league was because they actually cared about the players and wanted to give them an opportunity to develop. Boy was I wrong.

  13. Where is Ebersol hiding? The players should sue him and Polian into the poor house.

  14. Wouldn’t this be restriction of trade? The can’t has cancelled the games for which they are supposed to get paid, once the league can’t fulfill their end of the contract it automatically voids.

  15. Polian and Ebersol should never be allowed near football again. Each and every step of this has been laughable. They have now fully crossed into villain territory, with this disgusting move.

  16. Although it makes them look like creeps, it’s probably legal per their contracts. The industry I work in has ridiculous no-compete clauses for everyone with a salary job. Even after having been laid-off, I had to ask permission to apply at several other companies. When you live in a country where nearly every law favors the employers over the employees, this is what you get.

  17. Just a few weeks ago any comment saying anything negative of the league got nothing but down votes and people arguing how this was going to work. The AAF and XFL aren’t development leagues. They are professional leagues looking to make money. They think there is an untapped market for B level football to sell to the masses but there isn’t. No one wants to watch it on TV and they aren’t going to pay $60 to sit in the stands in February.

  18. Seems to me that if the contracts still binds the players to the AAF then the contract should bind the AAF and owners to paying the players to not play.

  19. Under bankruptcy law employment contracts fall squarely on the liability side of the ledger.

  20. If this were actually about money they’d be looking to get into the deepest pockets available – not poor sister CFL, but the NFL itself.
    But they’re not, and I’m sure there’s a perfectly good reason why. Good – but maybe not legal, ethical, etc.
    This stinks to every way possible. And I’d say the NFL is involved up to their eyeballs.

  21. “The industry I work in has ridiculous no-compete clauses for everyone with a salary job. Even after having been laid-off, I had to ask permission to apply at several other companies.”

    But that’s not exactly what is happening here. A traditional layoff still leaves a company operating and they’re interested in protecting trade secrets, etc. In this example, the AAF totally went under so it’d be like you came in to work and the entire office was locked up with absolutely nobody being left employed and no work being done any longer. At some point your contract is void no matter what provisions it contained because the other party to the contract doesn’t exist any longer.

  22. You’ll release players to sign contracts with the NFL, but lets charge the smaller league with less $$ money for our players under contract?

    I don’t believe this to be true, but the way the league was handled from a business perspective, this seems about right.

  23. Who in their right mind would buy the assets of this joke of a league.
    The XFL start up is next year. Why compete against that ?
    Lawsuits will be flying. Unless they pay off the signed player contracts,… which is doubtful.

  24. I guarantee you there is a group of lawyers somewhere that are advising Ebersol and Polian on this and telling them this is a good idea.

  25. I’m not a lawyer, but isn’t the AAF in breach of contract the minute it cancelled games and stopped paying players? No way they have any legal footing here.

  26. *sniff* *sniff* .. I smell a class action lawsuit coming. Also . Isn’t it criminal to defraud investors by publicly claiming the organization has enough capital to last for “years”. When in fact that was a lie used to dupe investors into buying in.. which was the real source of the leagues so called capital. Ponzi scheme?

  27. Let me get this straight. A business goes under and breaches their contracts with players. Then thinks then can enforce these contracts in another Country…. good luck with that!

  28. I don’t believe it’s Polian or Ebersol, they are out of the AAF. It’s Tom Dundon that is doing this. He is the owner , that makes him responsible.


    This may be our last chance for a spring football league. Let’s make the XFL a permanent fixture from February to the end of April. The XFL has a great financial backing, unlike the AAF.

  30. Meanwhile in Raliegh I see the Hurricanes are still struggling at the box office. Could it be that this is a bargaining tactic get the CFL to sign off on the Hurricanes playing a couple of Stadium Series games in Canada?

    If the ‘Canes were the home team at THF in Hamilton against the Leafs and Sabres that’s at least $10M in Dundon’s pocket.

  31. Unless Dundon has some weird play up his sleeve, it’s hard to see what his end game might be here. Given the CFL’s import quotas, they wouldn’t have been able to find roster spots for more than a handful of AAF players in any case. They’re certainly not going to pay the AAF a penny for table scraps after the NFL has already been allowed to pick off the best cuts of meat for free.

  32. kennylc2015 – in theory yes but what does the NFL get out of that arrangement?

    Dundon’s real leverage with the CFL is not in the legalities of trying to enforce football contracts he himself has no intention of honoring. It’s that he’s good friends with Gary Bettman and CFL teams do get a not insignificant cut if outdoor games that do happen in CFL facilities (like the upcoming Heritage Classic in Regina) so Gary is not a man the CFL wants to tick off.

    Obviously with the NFL Dundon does not have that kind of leverage.

  33. Another way to look at this case – the CFL suing the AAF over their behavior would be like MLB suing a hypothetical independent baseball league owned by Jerry Jones to secure the rights to a few AA-level utility infielders. No matter how badly Jones had behaved and no matter how strong MLB’s case was, they wouldn’t risk a war with the NFL to secure such a marginal gain.

  34. There is one other crazy end game Dundon might be playing for… could he really be trying to screw over Vince McMahon and the XFL 2.0? Maybe he wants to own the Carolina Panthers one day and is looking to do the NFL a favor. I also mention this because when you think this whole fiasco through…

    – Dundon has enough leverage (as an NHL owner) to dissuade the CFL from suing the AAF, but;
    – The CFL has no reason to offer any concessions to the AAF – its rosters are already full, so;
    – The logical recourse for the CFL is to do absolutely nothing – leaving the dozen or so AAF players who might crack a CFL roster on the shelf will have a negligible impact on their on-field product;
    – Dundon has the resources to hire top legal talent and may well win in court if the players’ contracts are one sided enough;
    – The limitations of the AAF out clause do not appear to be specifically targeted at the CFL – they were probably written more with the XFL in mind.

    So where would that all leave Vince McMahon? Between a rock and a hard place in my honest opinion. A lawsuit from the XFL would face the same obstacles as one from the players. And even if it didn’t, talk about a Catch 22. Without former AAF players, the potential XFL talent pool would be severely and probably fatally weakened But even if a lawsuit prevails, that also shoots the XFL in the foot since the ensuing precedent would also prevent them from inserting an enforcable provision stopping their players from jumping to the CFL or any other league that might crop up.

    The one silver lining for McMahon is that he could take the opportunity to shut down XFL 2.0 now in a face-saving manner, as he could plausibly stick the blame on the shenanigans of Dundon & Co.

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