The Spokane Shock have regularly scheduled meetings and practice today in preparation for Monday’s season opener, but first-year head coach Andy Olson isn’t sure how many of his players will be on hand.
Arena Football League players union executive director Ivan Soto announced via Twitter on Friday afternoon that the players are on strike with the main sticking point the players’ salaries. In a bizarre sequence of events, Pittsburgh Power owner Matt Shaner fired his entire team during their pregame meal a few hours before Friday’s opener against Orlando.
Predators owner Brett Bouchy released his entire roster. However, at least five Orlando players joined replacement players during the game.
Shaner told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that roughly half the team decided to leave the AFLPU, sign new contracts and play against Orlando. Former Shock players Kyle Rowley, projected as Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback, wasn’t one of them.
“Kyle Rowley will never play for the Pittsburgh Power,” Shaner said.
Shock majority owner Brady Nelson said several of his players have committed to playing against Iowa on Monday. Iowa executives told Nelson the Barnstormers plan on bringing their entire roster to Spokane.
“We wanted these guys because they’re men of good character and I expect them to fulfill their contract,” Nelson said. “I’m not asking them because I don’t know who is or who isn’t in the union, but I’m letting them tell me voluntarily and they say they’re 100 percent playing.”
Nelson declined to give a figure, but said it was more than three players.
Olson said he met with the Shock’s returning veterans Friday “to give them our side of the story.” The coach said he doesn’t know how many Shock players are in the union, but at least “five or six” told him they plan on playing.
“My goal is to keep pushing players across the league to realize this isn’t going to end in a positive way for the guys going on strike,” said Olson, a former standout receiver with the Shock. “There are a lot of people that will be affected and they’re making decisions with bad information. Who shows up (today) I don’t know, we’re going to see who wants to be here. I’m going to stay positive and plan on everybody being here.”
Phone calls to three veteran Shock players weren’t returned. AFL commissioner Jerry Kurz didn’t return a phone message.
Nelson said league owners were in the middle of a conference call Friday when the AFLPU presented a temporary proposal covering four weeks, requesting a bump in pay from the current $400 per game to $1,850 and “a bunch of other things.”
Nelson said the union wanted a response immediately. Soto told the Orlando Sentinel he gave the owners 2½ hours.
“We just said, ‘It doesn’t make any sense,’” Nelson said. “We countered with what we think was fair.”
The AFL has reportedly offered $500 per game. Starting quarterbacks are scheduled to make $1,650.
Nelson said AFL owners are on the same page and “firm, even if it means replacements. We’ll know a lot more (tonight), but I fully expect the same players you see on our roster playing on Monday.”