Arena Football Players Go to Court
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ The Arena Football League players’ union wants a judge to stop the league from canceling the season.
The union has asked for an injunction to stop the action by the league’s owners. A hearing before a federal judge is scheduled for March 13 in Newark.
``This cancellation is the owners’ way of continuing to try to coerce the players into unionizing and giving up their legal rights,″ players’ association lawyer Jeffrey Kessler said in The Des Moines Register today. ``The players have been committed all along to giving the fans what they want _ a season.″
A canceled season would be a devastating blow to a league that has become financially stable and gained national attention when Kurt Warner, a former Iowa Barnstormers quarterback, led the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl title.
Arena League spokesman David Cooper said owners would consider reviving the season if players form a collective bargaining unit. The season was to have begun April 17.
``This has gone on for some time, and right now the pressures are now more on the business side,″ Cooper said. ``Would we have enough time to sell tickets, get sponsors and promote the season? We have to bring this to a conclusion very, very soon.″
On one side of the issue is a group of players supported by a union. On the other is a group of players supported by a different union.
The vote to cancel the season came after an antitrust suit was filed Feb. 4 by a group of players supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.
The suit accuses the 18 franchise owners of conspiring to illegally limit the players’ rights and salaries and restrict the ability of players to offer their services to competing employers _ in other words, a form of free agency.
AFL president Ron Kurpiers on Friday said Kessler has only 40 to 50 of the nearly 500 Arena League players supporting him; Kessler said more than half the players back him.
Kurpiers also accused Kessler of sabotaging an effort by the Teamsters Union to unionize the players.
Arena Football is 14 years old and is the most successful of the offshoot leagues in the United States. Team values have soared to nearly $7 million, and the NFL holds an option to purchase up to 49 percent of the league.
Arena Football recently signed a television contract with three national networks, including a game of the week on TNN. ESPN and ESPN2 also were involved and ABC was to televise the championship game.