Just when you thought things couldn’t get any kookier for Antonio Brown and his Albany Empire, their entire situation has become a slapstick comedy. During the former NFL wide receiver’s tenure as the franchise’s owner, they’ve tripped and fallen down more than the Three Stooges.
The latest punchline in the embattled owner’s act is that he’s now apparently gotten the franchise kicked out of the National Arena League for unpaid fines and membership operating costs. Their non-compliance was no laughing matter for the NAL, who ejected the club with seven games remaining in the regular season.
“After exhausting all avenues, the NAL board of owners have decided unanimously to terminate the membership agreement of the Albany Empire,” said the release issued by the league. “The decision was reached after an emergency conference call of the members in good standing to discuss the Empire’s failure to pay their league mandated and overdue assessments.”
The league gave the Empire until noon ET on Thursday to make their payments current. When they failed to do so, the NAL canceled the team’s Saturday home game against the Jacksonville Sharks and removed them from the rest of the year’s schedule.
Albany had been an affiliate of the organization since 2021, winning the league title in consecutive seasons before Brown came on board earlier this year. Since then however, the situation in Albany has morphed into little more than a clown show.
According to multiple reports, players weren’t paid and head coach Damon Ware walked out on the team. There was even a rumor that Brown had the athletes locked out of hotel rooms on the road.
On May 3, Antonio Brown then announced that popular former coach Tom Menas had been rehired as head coach. Menas would resign just 18 days later, citing a difference in philosophy with ownership. Later, at a press conference, Brown said that the team’s payroll issues had been resolved. However, that’s never been totally confirmed.
Most recently, both quarterbacks on the roster were released following their loss to the Orlando Predators two weeks ago, which dropped Albany to 1-6. Now, Antonio Brown and his team are a laughingstock once again, and in search of a new place to play.
While it’s easy to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, it’s actually a sad situation. Brown promised to be a leading man in the city, supporting the team while paying homage to his own father’s career. Eddie ‘Touchdown’ Brown was a star in upstate New York and is widely considered one of the greatest arena players of all time. So it all seemed like a match made in heaven.
Instead, it has turned into a circus, with Brown unable to hold things together as its ringmaster. And while it all may seem like a bunch of bloopers and practical jokes? For fans of the Albany Empire, the 2023 season has been nothing to smile about.