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Sportico: Non-NFL football players form advocacy group to represent player interests in leagues like the XFL

A group of former AAF and XFL players form nonprofit group to advocate for players’ rights.

XFL Players

Former XFL and AAF players have formed a nonprofit group to advocate for players’ rights. (Photo: Adam McCullough/XFLBoard)

Sportico, the site that broke the news about Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital purchasing the XFL in bankruptcy, today featured an article about the formation of a player advocacy group aimed at representing non-NFL player interests in leagues like the XFL. With the closures of the AAF and XFL in mind, players want protections against being left in the lurch by leagues that don’t survive.

The NFL has its players union to collectively bargain for its members. While the newly-formed United Football Players Association is not a union, the hope of its founders is to work with secondary leagues to create a work environment in which the players have a say.

Among those leading the charge for the UFPA is Kenneth Farrow, a veteran of the Alliance of American Football who most recently played in the XFL with the Seattle Dragons. The AAF infamously shut down mid-season, leaving some players to find their own flights home. The XFL too shut down mid-season, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Players were left without much recourse after the league’s bankruptcy filing.

Don Povia, one of the key advisors to the UPFA, was quoted in the Sportico article as hoping to use the year-plus lead time before the XFL starts again in 2022 to work with the league’s management in setting forth policies with player interests in mind.

In previous incarnations of the XFL, players have lacked an organized voice. Pay scales, schedules, and safety protocols have been set by management without consulting any official body representing the players. Corey Vereen famously declined to play in the XFL in 2020 due to the lower salary than was expected. That apparent misunderstanding between the league and players/agents would be rectified if the numbers were negotiated alongside the UFPA.

Had either version of the XFL survived and thrived, the creation of a player’s union would’ve been inevitable. Pro wrestlers do not have a union. Vince McMahon, that industry’s leader, is currently under pressure from, among others, former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang for the perception that he has taken advantage of wrestlers due to a lack of union and for misclassifying his talent as independent contractors.

The existence of an entity tasked with looking out for player interests has taken on added importance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the MLB and NFL player’s associations waged public battles with their respective leagues to ensure the safety of its athletes prior to returning to the field. Even college football players showed strength in numbers by taking to social media in an attempt to get conferences on board with a 2020 season. The combination of the desire for safety amidst the coronavirus and players using their platforms to speak out about social justice issues gives athletes perhaps more power than ever before.

Greg Parks is a columnist for Pro Wrestling Torch (pwtorch.com). He covers the XFL and the Tampa Bay Vipers for XFLBoard.com. He has written extensively about the XFL. He resides in Naples, Florida. Follow him on Twitter @gregmparks.

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