AAF controlling owner Tom Dundon says league could discontinue without help from NFLPA
The AAF and NFLPA have been negotiating about the Alliance acquiring young NFL players
There's almost never a dull moment in the AAF. On nearly a weekly basis, something pops up that seems to put the league's future in jeopardy. Fromto , the AAF has endured more than its share of drama.
Oddly enough, the latest round comes from the league's new control owner and board chairman Tom Dundon, who just injected $250 million into the Alliance in February. Speaking with USA Today Sports, Dundon, the owner of the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes, said the start-up league could be in danger of folding without the cooperation of the NFLPA in acquiring young talent. "If the players union is not going to give us young players, we can't be a development league," Dundon said. "We are looking at our options, one of which is discontinuing the league."
Dundon added that he "expects to make a decision about the league's future over the next two days."
A source close to the AAF told CBS Sports that Dundon was acting without seeking the advice of the council of NFL experts under contract to him. For example, Bill Polian, the AAF's Head of Football, was only made aware of the issue this morning. For context, Polian and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice "De" Smith have a lengthy and friendly history together and were steeped in talks. The source went so far as to say that no one is sure why Dundon is doing what he's doing, but that the AAF currently plans on having games in Week 8.
"[Tom] is the worst negotiator I've ever seen," the source said. However, given Dundon's position in the company, he is capable of making such large decisions. Therein lies the biggest threat to the AAF's existence: what Dundon is or isn't willing to do.
Another thing to consider, though, is that there are other heavily involved people who can still make this work if Dundon's bluff is called. Earlier this month on a conference call, Polian said preliminary talks between the AAF and NFLPA were underway in determining whether the Alliance could land current NFL players -- namely, practice squad players, of which there are more than 300 -- for future spring seasons. This would allow the AAF to bring in NFL-caliber players and develop them so they would be in better shape and more prepared in time for training camps in the summer.
However, injuries are a part of football and giving backups or practice squad players more reps on the AAF means opportunity for more injuries. One thing both sides did agree on during the negotiation process was that players moving between the NFL and AAF needed to be protected in case of injury. An NFLPA official told USA Today that if an "NFL player played in the AAF and suffered serious injury, that player would face the risk of missing an NFL season and lose a year of accrued experience, which carries financial ramifications for players."
CBS Sports was told that, as of Week 7 in the AAF's season, a small percentage of players had suffered season-ending injuries that would result in the player missing the 2019 NFL season. Additionally, the AAF was willing to fund insurance for players hurt during their time in the Alliance.
The two sides were close to coming to an agreement with one final hurdle to clear before Dundon spoke publicly about possibly folding the AAF if it didn't get what it wanted. As of now, the AAF plans to play football this weekend. Whether that changes in light of Dundon's comments remains to be seen.
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