When the Arena Football League schedule was released in October, Spokane majority owner Brady Nelson wasn’t thrilled to see the Shock with a Monday home opener, the last of six games on opening weekend.
He is now.
“I love having Monday night football but I’m looking at March Madness about to start, Selection Sunday the day before and so many things are going on we could get swallowed up a little,” Nelson said. “Now that this whole thing happened, I’m so thrilled we’re playing Monday. It’s been a blessing in disguise.”
This “whole thing” was an AFL player strike that was announced via Twitter Friday afternoon, hours before the season opener between Orlando and Pittsburgh, leaving players, owners and fans scrambling for reliable information. Players union executive director Ivan Soto tweeted that the strike was called after Pittsburgh’s owner fired his players and Orlando’s owner released his players.
Late Friday night, Soto tweeted that the work stoppage was over and “all players instructed to go back to work.” Saturday afternoon Soto tweeted: “We have instructed players no stoppage through Monday no slow down no disruption of games.”
There apparently still isn’t an agreement in place. Nelson said AFL owners had a conference call Saturday to discuss procedural matters and re-sent the players union the offer that’s been on the table for roughly a week: A bump in pay from the current $400 per game to $500 with the elimination of the $50 bonus per win. Starting quarterbacks would remain at $1,650 per game.
When Shock players arrived at the team facility Saturday for meetings and practice, head coach Andy Olson told them he was going to leave the room and they could decide what they wanted to do.
“We just talked about some personal things and what was going on around the league and as a team we decided it was in our best interest to play the game,” quarterback Erik Meyer said. “A couple of the older guys stepped up and tried to explain what is going on.”
Defensive lineman Jeremy Geathers received a text message at 6 a.m. Saturday informing him that the strike was over, putting an end, at least temporarily, to a confusing few days.
“Friday night with all the calls and hearing things, the whole league going back and forth, some teams wanting to play and others didn’t,” Geathers said. “I definitely don’t feel it’s all the way over, but I just hope they do things the right way and do it more organized.”
Geathers said most players belong to the AFLPU.
“This (player unrest) has been going on the last three years,” he said. “I just hope things get worked out. I played with a lot of those (Orlando and Pittsburgh) guys that played last night. I feel bad for Kyle (Rowley, former Shock quarterback who didn’t play Friday) and some of those guys had to take a hard fall. I wish everybody would have stayed together as a unit, but it really should have been a little more organized.”
Saturday’s three games apparently were played with the teams’ complete rosters.
“Friday was just an awful day, trying to talk to the players and get a feel for what they were thinking,” Olson said. “I’m very happy to have my team back, not worry about everything else and get in these last couple days of practice for Iowa.”
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