The National Gridiron League – NGL began its football life as a 12 team indoor league, taking advantage of older abandoned team names and logos. But for the 2021 season, league president Joe McClendon decided to take the game outside.
As things progressed from late last year, and into 2021, it was clear that playing in some of the cities wasn’t going to be possible, so McClendon made the decision to put the league’s players in a bubble, located in Ft Wayne, IN.
According to the site, games were set to start on May 1st, and our player sources said they were to report to camp last week, April 7th.
That’s where everything started going down hill.
Once players arrived at their hotels, they were informed that their stays were not paid for, despite being told that they would be.
McClendon scheduled a meeting with the players at a local shopping mall. According to some of the players, the meeting quickly turned into something resembling a protest. Police were called to the scene because of public disturbance complaints.
This was reportedly a response to a claim that the city had reneged on a promise to assist the league with housing costs, but we found out later, via WANE 15 reporter Angie Trindade, the city never made any such commitments.
Ft Wayne city spokesperson, John Perlich had this to say about those claims:
“The City Administration, some local organizations, and some local community leaders have had meetings with the National Gridiron League regarding the League’s interest in having Fort Wayne as its home for football games this year. Offers have been made to help the League get acquainted with the community and point them toward locations for games and housing. As it relates to the League’s housing needs, the City of Fort Wayne hasn’t made any commitments and there are no agreements regarding this issue. The City has asked for a number of items from the League about its ability financially to conduct its operations here. At this time, we haven’t seen any of the requested information.”JOHN PERLICH, CITY OF FORT WAYNE SPOKESPERSON
Players began to make their way home shortly thereafter, and the 2021 bubble season in Ft Wayne was canceled. McClendon insists though, that the league will play somewhere this year.
The league’s issues in Ft Wayne go further. Only 2 teams were asked to report, the rest were told to wait until further notice. No physicals had been scheduled, which is a requirement to begin training camp, for health and safety reasons.
Since there were no physicals, no official practices had been scheduled, players were left on their own to get together and work out.
That brings us to Monday.
Ft Wayne’s Journal Gazette writer Dylan Sinn’s investigation found that during a meeting Monday afternoon, where McClendon was explaining the situation, uncovered a physical altercation, later verified via video in the Twitter thread.
According to his report, McMclendon claims to have $1.3M in a Paycheck Protection Program loan that he must use by June of this year, or he could face criminal charges:
“Guys, you’re going to play, I have to play this year. I don’t want to pay the f—— money back myself. … This is not over. This is an adjustment. We have to play. Period. That money, I can’t spend it any other way but on payroll or, guess what, they take (me) to jail.”NGL President Joe McClendon
These aren’t the only issues the league had this year. As a matter of fact, this isn’t the only year the league has had complications. In 2019, the season was canceled because agreements with the venues couldn’t be reached.
Last year, the reason was the pandemic, but many believe that was a scapegoat, as players experienced much of the same as this year; showing up in Evansville, IN to rooms that had not been paid for.
We’ve been following the league closely since December 2020, and found that despite their site claiming to have teams playing at specific venues, there were – again – no agreements between the league and the stadiums.
Multiple players and coaches have spoken out about McClendon’s business dealings, and very few of them have been positive. Most of the coaches have not seen a dime in pay, and since the league has yet to take the field, players have also not been paid.
Indiana Blue Bombers – a team based in Ft Wayne – HC Michael Coleman had this to say about the situation:
“This scumbag … he’s now refusing to help these kids. (The players) have all their stuff in the fricking parking lot (of the hotel) like they’re nobody. This is unacceptable.”
I had spoken to coach Coleman just a few weeks ago, and he was very excited about the league, and the opportunities it was providing everyone involved. So it doesn’t seem as if anyone outside of the front office knew anything was amiss.
Their social media has had very little player promotion. The only presence it has had recently is to try and sell merchandise. Many of these issues by themselves are innocuous. But put together, they paint a very dark picture.
The point of all of this is to make sure that players and coaches who have tried to follow their dreams of playing or coaching professional football, are not being taken advantage of.
These guys put their lives on hold, and trusted the NGL to have their best interests at heart. It’s a major shame these things are happening to these guys. Hopefully, this type of thing won’t happen as much in the future.
I’m not naïve enough to believe that this will stop just because we’ve brought it to notice, but hopefully, it will make the next person who wants to do this think twice.
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