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The IFL Meltdown, Another AFL Labor Setback
Terrell Owens, expected first-ballot hall-of-fame receiver, recently suffered the indignity of being cut from the Indoor Football League's Allen (TX) Wranglers, the Metroplex-based team the wide receiver actually owns (owned?) a thirty percent stake in.
The primary reason given by the club is TO's failure to make a scheduled team appearance at a children's hospital. They declared TO's contract breached, and therefore voided, and went on to confiscate the company house, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and that 30% ownership stake. The team offered just $50 in severance pay.
Terrell Owens, who afterward fired his long-time agent, insists that he was given the wrong date for the hospital visit, and has threatened to sue the team unless his severance is lifted to $160k, and he's given a public apology.
I'm not specially qualified to give a legal opinion, but the Wranglers hurt themselves by also citing TO's refusal to play in road games as a reason for cutting him. I understand, based on media reports and one of the Wranglers' own press releases, that his contract didn't obligate him to play on the road. It appears to me that the ownership must not have consulted with their lawyers before citing the reasons for dismissal publicly. Good grief.
Terrell, I realize, may have hurt his case, too, by abruptly firing his agent. It opens questions. Did he fire his agent because the hospital mix-up was really the agent's fault? If the Wranglers have good attorneys, that theory will be explored.
As messy as the Allen Wranglers' saga with Terrell Owens looks (a saga that made its way to TV's Dr Phil), it isn't as ugly as what just happened with the Arena Football League.
Friday night, the Pittsburgh Power and the Cleveland Gladiators were expected to take the field as the NFL Network's showcase game, but an abrupt labor strike led to the Gladiators forfeiting, the first forfeit in AFL history.
The league, prepared for the strike, offered a Philadelphia Soul/Milwaukee game instead for the showcase, but the NFL Network was fed-up, and severed their arrangement with the AFL. The league hurriedly managed to get the game on the Comcast Sports Network, an outlet without a national presence. Still, gotta admire the agility the league showed in putting that together.
With the loss of the NFL Network agreement and the alienation of commuting fans especially, it sure looks like the AFL took a larger hit lately than the IFL. Heck, I'll still argue that the Terrell Owens experiment helped the IFL. In the games he did play, the 38-year-old Owens did not display overwhelming superiority over the rest of the league, suggesting that the talent level is at a respectable place.
It will be up to the IFL front office to prevent sudden wildcat strikes from ruining their league. They once again have the chance to leapfrog over the AFL to become the premiere indoor league.