Lee A. Hutton III To Serve As Commissioner & Make History As First Black Commissioner to Lead Professional Sports League in the U.S.
February 1, 2023 – Today, the Arena Football League (AFL) has announced that it will be relaunching under new leadership with plans to formally return to the gridiron in 2024.
The league will resume operations under the stewardship of investment group F1 Sports & Entertainment, which purchased the rights to the AFL in January 2022. The league’s board of directors will include Chairman Chris Chetty, President Anthony Rossi and President of Operations Shan Singh and the executive leadership team will be led by Commissioner Lee A. Hutton III, Deputy Commissioner Travelle Gaines, President of Entertainment Tuo Clark and Executive Vice President Curt Feldtkeller.
“We are elated to come out of hibernation and make this announcement official,” Rossi said. “Our objective when we acquired the AFL was to bring back a storied brand that deserved to be revived and showcased again, globally. We envisioned executing on the old saying ‘Bigger and Better,’ but this time, we want to incorporate the components of a modern-day business – streaming, betting, technology, virtual reality, and immerse fan engagement mixed with good old-fashioned iron-man football. The re-launch of the AFL first started with assembling a respected executive and advisory team. Each partner, member and business executive of today’s AFL was meticulously hand-selected piece by piece. We believe we have assembled a world-class, operational team made up of C-Suite executives, expert sports trainers, football personnel, performance facilities, legal partners, professional team owners and former athletes.”
Hutton’s appointment as AFL commissioner has significant historical implications, considering he will become the first Black commissioner to spearhead a professional sports league in the United States. He served as an attorney that has represented both Fortune 500 companies as well as athletes, celebrities and artists in contract negotiations. Over the course of his career, Hutton has worked on high-profile cases, ranging from NFL concussion litigation to NCAA NIL legal cases.
“The Arena Football League brand has always sat at the promontory of indoor football by offering gridiron entertainment, fast action, and iron tough athletes in conjunction with delivering a family fun fan experience that uniquely engages the pig skin enthusiast,” Hutton said. “Ultimately, the professional sports brand speaks for itself and is proud to announce, ‘We are back!’”
Under Hutton’s leadership, the AFL will launch with 16 teams that will play 10 regular season games before postseason play.
“Our commitment is to deliver a professional sports event every week indoors, on the shoulder of the summer season when the world craves entertainment and competition,” Chetty said. “We aim to produce a family-friendly, yet equally electric atmosphere for our committed fans. As Chairman, my objective will be to change the culture of professional sports ownership and it is with great confidence that I state – from the owners to the players – we will be the most racially-diverse professional sports league in the world.”
“The AFL has an iconic legacy of 30-plus years and we plan to honor that history,” Gaines said. “We will bring teams to markets that previously boasted AFL franchises and engage with the rabid fanbases that supported our brand of football. The AFL also plans to provide year-round, sports performance training, rehabilitation resources and nutritional programs to ensure the modern athlete is better prepared for ironman football.”
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