Carney Column: A sad, frustrating ending for the AAF
After just eight games, the Alliance of American Football came to a sad, frustrating ending earlier this week, putting a number of players, media members, and staffers out of a job abruptly, while hitting the valley hard as two local players got caught up in it.
Former Rifle and University of Colorado star Ryan Moeller, a starting safety for the San Diego Fleet, and former Roaring Fork and Colorado State University standout Trae Moxley, an offensive lineman for the Atlanta Legends, found themselves staring at a crossroads on Tuesday when the league announced it was suspending actions within the league immediately as leading investor Tom Dundon pulled out of his side of the deal after investing $70 million after the first week, keeping the upstart league stay afloat after initial investor Reggie Fowler exited the picture after paying $28 million of a reported $170 million investment.
The league completed eight full games and was nearing completion of the regular season before entering the playoffs. The football wasn’t as good as the NFL, but people were watching on TV and attending the games, and no-name players were turning themselves into something in professional football. Additionally, it sounds like Dundon only invested in the league to get access to the gambling app the league was developing, according to a report from Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer. If that’s true, that’s as shady as it gets. He clearly didn’t care about the league or the players, instead just going after a long-term money maker in the gambling app, stripping it for its data and software. He should be ashamed if those reports are true.
Now, with the league all but extinct, dreams have been shattered, many people out of work, and players left to fend for themselves without any sort of severance package. What a disgrace.
It’s always been difficult for any upstart sports league, especially a football league in the spring, to be successful. Early returns showed the AAF was a success, but as reports trickle out after the fall of the upstart league, the league’s owners and board members didn’t have a concrete plan on getting through the first year, let alone establishing themselves long-term. It surely didn’t help that the NFL itself had no interest in pairing with the AAF, making it a full-time developmental league like the AAF and its founders hoped.
Not having any sort of plan and flying by the seat of your pants with a multi-million dollar business is insane, and the league paid for it dearly. Sadly, those working for the league, such as media members, team staffers, and the players put their trust into the big wigs within the AAF. That trust backfired and now they’re left scrambling to find work. It’s tough to see, but that’s the world today.
I hurt for Moeller and Moxley, who didn’t catch on right away with the NFL, but seemed to find homes with San Diego and Atlanta. In fact, Moeller was tied for the league lead in interceptions with four, proving to be one of the top safeties in the league.
After practicing on Monday, Moeller and Moxley were set for another week ahead in the league. Instead, the news of the suspension of operations sent a shock-wave through the players and the fan bases, with most finding out on Twitter, rather than from the teams themselves.
While the demise of the AAF isn’t anything close to as crushing as the United States Football League back in the 1980s due to Donal Trump suing the NFL, seeing an upstart league with considerable interest end so abruptly is sad and frustrating on a personal level. I was actually able to watch the AAF live, instead of reading about its history in a book like I did with the USFL and Jeff Pearlman’s incredible “Football for a Buck.”
With the upstart developmental league all but finished, it will be interesting to see which players get a shot at an NFL roster this summer in training camps. Moeller impressed in eight games and should be able to at least latch on as a special teams player, while Moxley would be a solid depth offensive linemen in the league, considering he’s played every position on the line.
I’m personally rooting for them to see their careers continue. It’s a real shame that their AAF careers came to an end they way that they did, but hopefully this is just a small chapter in their overall story in football.
Josh Carney is the sports editor of the Post Independent. He thoroughly enjoyed watching the San Diego Fleet, Arizona Hotshots, and the Birmingham Iron in the AAF this spring. At least now he has vintage memorabilia from the league. To reach Josh, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or look him up on Twitter: @JCarney_Sports.
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