The UFPA is a nonprofit composed of football players with experience in the NFL, XFL, CFL, and more, representing professional athletes in alternative football leagues not covered by contracts like those in the NFL Players Association.
This affiliation will help empower the UFPA in representing players by advocating for those who face payroll issues and healthcare challenges. The USW will also help the UFPA navigate the difficulties of workers’ compensation policies and help push for specific standards regarding practice facilities, travel accommodations, and scheduling. Additionally, both associations will demand transparency regarding salaries to players and agents.
UFPA President and NFL, AAF, and XFL Alumni, Kenneth Farrow II commented on the importance of this move, stating,
“My experience of playing through injuries between surgeries and assisting other players through several league bankruptcies showed we cannot rely on the league to ensure our job security and financial stability. Joining a union to bargain for better treatment right now is the most important step we can take to raise our standard of living in the future.”
And Farrow is definitely correct, as there’s a reason these well-established leagues like the NFL and CFL have their official player’s unions.
Unlike the NFL, almost all these alternative football leagues have no form of players association or players advocacy group. As a result, we’ve seen countless cases in the past where leagues have either taken advantage of players or left them without any help when things collapsed.
For example, In 2019, the Alliance of American Football financially collapsed, leaving players without pay, some of whom were stranded in road cities. A similar situation would happen with the XFL in 2020, but this time the bankruptcy was caused by the global pandemic. In 2021, The Spring League (TSL) also stirred up quite the controversy regarding how they treated players during their hub season (not to mention a lawsuit against TSL for $1.4 million of overdue payments), and there have been plenty more cases.
The point is, having an affiliation with the USW can be a very powerful thing. As a nonprofit organization, the UFPA is not an actual players union and is not authorized by the National Labor Relations Board to do any collective bargaining or go on strike. However, the USW is an authorized workers union and already represents roughly 850,000 employees in a wide variety of professions.
UFPA Vice-President Nick Temple also commented on the affiliation, stating,
“We are standing together and taking action to address and improve our working conditions, including travel accommodations, the condition of practice facilities, scheduling, and other concerns. Professional athletes deserve to be treated with dignity and respect on the job by their employers, and the USW has been empowering workers to fight for fairness and justice for generations.”
Temple believes transparency around pay and other areas of concern will not only benefit the players; he thinks it will help these alternative leagues retain more of their players as well.
This affiliation comes just in time for the USFL’s draft, which will take place on February 22nd and 23rd, with roughly 360 players to be selected for the inaugural season.
The USFL’s first game will kick off on April 16th in Birmingham, Alabama, featuring the New Jersey Generals and the Birmingham Stallions.
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