The recent decision by the National Arena League (NAL) to remove the Albany Empire from the league has been a contentious and hot topic. While the league cited non-payment of fees as the reason for the removal, there is another side of the story that is yearning to be heard. Alex Gunaris, who has been assisting Antonio Brown with the team’s accounting, taxes, and payroll, reached out to us to share some crucial insights into the situation.
As the personal accountant of Antonio Brown, and being closely involved with the Albany Empire, Gunaris has had a front-row seat to the tumultuous journey that ultimately led to the Empire’s dismissal from the NAL.
According to Gunaris, the matter of not paying league fees was not as simple as it was portrayed. The Albany Empire was willing to pay the fees but had requested that the league provide proof of payments made by other teams, along with the dates and amounts, to ensure fair treatment. This request stemmed from Gunaris’ discovery of certain issues in the preceding months. However, the league did not provide the requested information and instead, gave the Empire less than 24 hours to meet their demands.
In addition to the league fees issue, Gunaris reveals that the Empire paid a staggering $1.5 million to the State of New York Insurance Fund for workers’ compensation. This payment was made despite the fact that teams in the NAL generally earn between $500k to $800k a year in revenue. Such a hefty expense from the get-go had a crippling effect on the team’s finances for the season. Even after making this payment, the State of New York refused to offer any support or leeway despite multiple communications involving attorneys.
Furthermore, Gunaris points out that the Empire’s exorbitant workers’ compensation fee was a result of the prior ownership’s malpractices. The league was allegedly aware of these malpractices but did not take any remedial action. Instead, the prior owner was permitted to join the ownership group of the Orlando Predators soon after leaving Albany.
Another challenge faced by the Empire was a cap placed on their payroll at $116k for players by the State of New York Insurance Fund. This forced the team to release several good players to remain within this cap, adversely affecting the team’s performance.
Gunaris explains that Antonio Brown’s primary motivation for being involved with the Albany Empire was to provide young players with an opportunity to play football and showcase their skills for a potential career in the NFL. Brown was deeply committed to this cause, even though he knew that the team would be operating at a loss.
As the Albany Empire’s journey reaches an unfortunate halt, it’s crucial to recognize the complexities involved. According to Alex Gunaris, this was not a simple case of non-payment but a culmination of multiple factors that included financial strains and systemic issues.
Antonio Brown, who Gunaris speaks with daily, is reportedly disheartened by the turn of events. He had hoped to make a positive impact through the Albany Empire. Gunaris hopes that their side of the story sheds light on the challenges faced and also highlights Antonio Brown’s genuine intent behind his involvement with the team. Without Brown’s investment with the team, there might not have been a Albany Empire team to begin with.
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