Spokane Shock majority owner Brady Nelson says he’s “100 percent” confident the Arena Football League team’s season opener Monday night will go on as planned despite threats from the players union of a possible strike.
The AFL is scheduled to open its 25th season tonight when Pittsburgh visits Orlando in a nationally televised game on NFL Network. The Orlando Sentinel reported that Orlando has gone as far as lining up replacement players in case the players strike.
The AFLPU on its website said it has proposed players be paid about $850 per game ($15,300 annually) compared to the current $400 ($7,200 annually) for players other than starting quarterbacks, who earn $1,650 per game ($29,700). Players also earn $50 for each win.
Last season players made $400 per game with three “marketing players” earning $1,000.
Later Thursday, AFLPU executive director Ivan Soto told the Sentinel that progress had been made in negotiations and the likelihood of a work stoppage “has been reduced.” AFL commissioner Jerry Kurz said the league won’t discuss labor issues publicly but “hopes that we can come to an accord with the union.”
“The noise is really only coming from union management,” Nelson said.
“It’s not coming from the players. This has happened several times and unfortunately it’s being put out in the media, but we’ve dealt with this type of thing previously. We fully expect our players to play.”
Nelson said players from Spokane and Tampa Bay were asked to go on strike after the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner prior to the 2010 ArenaBowl at the Spokane Arena. The game went on as scheduled with Spokane winning 69-57.
“I really don’t think it’s going to be an issue because the buy-in (from players) isn’t there,” Nelson said.
Spokane is scheduled to entertain Iowa on Monday night.
“We’re looking forward to the game, our guys have prepared hard and we’ve had a long training camp,” Iowa general manager John Pettit said. “We’re looking forward to hitting the field.”
The AFL went out of the business in 2009 because of a broken financial model. The league returned in 2010 with Spokane capturing the championship in its first season after moving up from arenafootball2.
“Our players know this is an opportunity to play football, get film and to move up, and they’re happy to do that,” Nelson said. “Of course everybody wants to make more money, but I think our players understand we’re in a young, growing league and costs need to be in line for this league to continue to flourish.”