Two former AAF players hit league with class-action fraud complaint

The sudden shutdown of the Alliance of American Football left its players shocked, stranded and, most of all, feeling betrayed. Now, they might be taking the first step toward getting something back.

A pair of former AAF players, Birmingham Iron punter Colton Schmidt and Orlando Apollos linebacker Reggie Northrup, filed a class-action complaint with the Superior Court of California claiming they were misled by the league’s financial viability and defrauded when controlling owner Tom Dundon suspended operations, according to Deadspin.

The complaint claims the players would not have exposed themselves to “serious risk of physical or damage to [their] health” or “foregone other financial opportunities” if they had been aware of the true state of the league.

The two players, acting individually and on behalf “all players who contracted with” the AAF, are reportedly seeking damages for breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, promissory estoppel, violating labor codes, violating business and professions codes, fraud, false promise and inducing breach of contract.

What does this complaint against the AAF mean?

Basically, the complaint seems to boil down to the players claiming they were given reason to believe they were joining a league much healthier and likely to last long-term than it really was. That supposedly caused them to push themselves into the meat-grinder that is the sport of football again rather than seek other opportunities that would have had them better positioned right now.

For months, AAF CEO Charlie Ebersol and, later, Dundon talked up the AAF’s long-term path to become a feeder league for the NFL with the idea that they had the funding to do so. These are the people who would have known that, in reality, the league wasn’t even going to last a season.

There was also a reported that Dundon invested and took a controlling share of the company just so he could essentially buy the league’s gambling app, the fate of the league inconsequential.

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Scenes from AAF opening weekend
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Scenes from AAF opening weekend
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS - FEBRUARY 09: Kenneth Farrow II #20 of the San Antonio Commanders scores a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the San Diego Fleet in an Alliance of American Football game at the Alamodome on February 09, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/AAF/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 09: Austin Appleby #5 of Orlando Apollos scrambles with the ball against Brandon Watts #58 of Atlanta Legends during the fourth quarter on February 09, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. The Apollos defeated the Legends 40-6. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/AAF/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA - FEBRUARY 10: Rajion Neal #34 of Memphis Express is brought down by Jonathan Massaquoi #57 of Birmingham Iron during an Alliance of American Football game at Legion Field on February 10, 2019 in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/AAF/Getty Images)
TEMPE, AZ - FEBRUARY 10: Jhurell Pressley #26 of the Arizona Hotshots scores a touchdown behind Will Davis#26 of the Salt Lake Stallions during the second half of the Alliance of American Football game at Sun Devil Stadium on February 10, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/AAF/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA - FEBRUARY 10: Water is dumped on head coach Tim Lewis of Birmingham Iron following a victory over the Memphis Express during an Alliance of American Football game at Legion Field on February 10, 2019 in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/AAF/Getty Images)
TEMPE, AZ - FEBRUARY 10: Branden Oliver #81 of the Arizona Hotshots carries the ball during the second half of the Alliance of American Football game against the Salt Lake Stallions at Sun Devil Stadium on February 10, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/AAF/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS - FEBRUARY 09: Kenneth Farrow II #20 of the San Antonio Commanders celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the San Diego Fleet in an Alliance of American Football game at the Alamodome on February 09, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/AAF/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 09: Charles Johnson #12 of the Orlando Apollos misses a pass attempt against Desmond Lawrence #23 of Atlanta Legends during the first quarter on February 09, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/AAF/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 09: Jalin Marshall #17 of Orlando Apollos scores a second quarter touchdown reception against Carlos Merritt #20 and Quincy Mauger #42 of Atlanta Legends on February 09, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. This is the first touchdown in AAF history. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/AAF/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 09: Will Hill III #33 of Orlando Apollos takes the field prior to the game against the Atlanta Legends on February 09, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/AAF/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA - FEBRUARY 10: Quinton Patton #11 of the Birmingham Iron takes the field during an Alliance of American Football game against the Memphis Express at Legion Field on February 10, 2019 in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Joe Robbins/AAF/Getty Images)
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Deadspin notes that the players argue the way the AAF left them out to dry in the end indicated that league purposefully negotiated contracts in bad faith, giving attractive three-year deals to players fully aware the odds of those contracts being honored to completion were slim.

Clearly, the players have reason to be unhappy with the AAF and its owners and operators. Players were kicked out of their lodgings, left to cover their own medical bills and given an emotional kick in the gut when a promising opportunity dried up with no advance warning.

They aren’t the only ones out there with a bone to pick with the defunct league, but they’re almost certainly the ones left with the least.

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