The Alliance of American Football has suspended all operations despite being just eight weeks into its inaugural season, AAF co-founder Bill Polian said Tuesday.
"I am extremely disappointed to learn [AAF majority owner] Tom Dundon has decided to suspend all football operations of the Alliance of American Football," Polian said in a statement, according to ESPN. "When Mr. Dundon took over, it was the belief of my co-founder, Charlie Ebersol, and myself that we would finish the season, pay our creditors, and make the necessary adjustments to move forward in a manner that made economic sense for all.
"The momentum generated by our players, coaches and football staff had us well positioned for future success. Regrettably, we will not have that opportunity."
The news was first reported by ProFootballTalk. SI's Albert Breer reported there's a perception inside the league that Dundon bought a stake in the league for the gambling app being developed with one source saying, "Dundon got the technology he wanted and he's now minus one rather large headache." SI's Conor Orr reported league heads were stunned.
Dundon told USA Todaylast week that the league was in jeopardy of folding if it wasn't able to use young NFL talent in its second season. He said the NFL Players Association is not cooperating with the league and said if the union wouldn't cooperate, the AAF "can't be a development league." The league was intended to be a feeder system for the NFL. Breer added that the NFLPA had consistent dialogue with the AAF over the last few weeks, and was surprised that Dundon went public with his plea for their help.
Dundon invested $250 million in the AAF in February. According to ActionNetworkHQ's Darren Rovell, Dundon will lose approximately $70 million on his investment and he made the decision against the wishes of league co-founders Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian.
The AAF is in Week 9 of its 10-week regular season. The Orlando Apollos lead the East Division at 6–1, while the San Antonio Commanders lead the West at 5–2. The AAF has eight teams in Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis, Orlando, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Diego and Tempe.
Following the report, quarterback Johnny Manziel, who joined the AAF on March 16, tweeted, telling players to keep theirs heads up.
Sources told SI's Robert Klemko that the league is making players pay for their own flights home.
A second upstart league, the relaunch of WWE billionaire Vince McMahon's XFL, is set to launch in February 2020 with games the weekend after the Super Bowl. The XFL will feature eight teams (seven of which are in NFL markets) that will play a 10-week schedule. McMahon recently sold $272 million in WWE stocks to help fund the XFL.