On August 10th, the highly anticipated Alliances Broken documentary was released to the public. The documentary shares the stories of players, coaches, and executives from the now-defunct Alliance of American Football (AAF), many of whom were employed by the Orlando Apollos. Alliances Broken also focuses on the life of AAF founder Charlie Ebersol, and how his ambitious but risky business practices contributed greatly to the league’s demise. I had the honor to talk with Steve Potter, the director, and Chris Martin, an Apollos offensive lineman featured extensively throughout the film. I’ll include bits and pieces of those conversations where they’re needed.
The AAF was founded in March of 2018, and kicked off less than a year later in February 2019. Eleven months is a very short window to launch a football league, but Ebersol was determined. Unfortunately, most of the AAF’s money came from investor Reggie Fowler, who had a shady past with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. Fowler withdrew his money from the league after the first week of operations, forcing the AAF to sell his stake to another investor, Thomas Dundon. Spoiler alert: Fowler ended up being arrested for money laundering, which explained why he pulled out so early. It would also explain why the AAF never seemed to have sufficient funds, another big point that was focused on in the documentary. Besides Ebersol’s antics, it was the other leading reason for the collapse of the league.
The AAF folded after eight weeks of play, and the ending was very abrupt. Players were kicked out of their team hotels and left on the street, forced to figure everything else out on their own.
As I was interviewing a lot of the players, they were pretty unclear of how it was going to play out. A lot of them were asking questions like “is this a 24 hour thing?” or “do we just go home?” Meanwhile, the AAF was having a merchandise sale while operations were shutting down, and they weren’t afraid to promote it, either. To this day, it’s still the last tweet they posted. I think that goes to show the position they were in at the time, both mentally and financially.Steve Potter
While the AAF may have damaged lives from a business perspective, it was also hurtful on a personal level.
The game that we were scheduled to play before the AAF suspended operations was supposed to be my first start at right tackle that season. Not only that, but the game was going to be on my son’s death day, so it was a great opportunity for me to honor him. I’d even be doing it in the same stadium where I played college football. I’m likely never going to have that chance again, and that really hurt me for a while. It put me in a position where I didn’t want to play football anymore.Chris Martin
The AAF was a failure for a variety of reasons, but it likely could have been a success if more time had been put into its creation. Ebersol had some good ideas, such as making fans a bigger part of the league, rewarding players for their efforts on and off the field, and creating a diverse network of technology for easier interactions. Ebersol’s major shortcoming, however, was a severe lack of communication.
Ebersol never really talked with the players much, even though he always eluded to the importance of such connections. People finally expected him to say something when the league went under, but he continued to remain quiet. Here we are in 2021, over two years since the final snap was played in the AAF, and it’s the same story with him. No press conferences, no statements, nothing. It really rubbed anyone that worked for Ebersol the wrong way and left a bad taste in their mouth. It’s also why they don’t have many positive things to say about the league, which is understandable. Most of them would have been fine with a simple email, but they didn’t even get that.Steve Potter
To conclude, the AAF was pretty much doomed since the day it was launched. A combination of money shortages and false promises caused a league that looked promising from the start to one that is now [generally] looked at as nothing more than “another failure in Spring football.” While the AAF could have been a lot better in many different categories, there were still some good things that came out of it.
I definitely didn’t have the best time in the AAF, but I made a lot of friendships and memories that I’m forever grateful for. I still believe in the idea of Spring football, and I would definitely join a league similar to the AAF if that league was able to be more transparent.Chris Martin
Alliances Broken goes into more detail on all of the topics mentioned in this article. It’s definitely worth watching, and all the credit should go to Steve Potter for putting it together. A big shoutout to Chris Martin and his family, too, for being so open and informative.
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