Major League Football League, a newly-formed football league set to kick off in August, had its operations come to a complete halt on Thursday when MLFB members and nearly 260 players were kicked out of their hotel rooms during regularly scheduled offseason activities.
MLFB coaches, players and members were approached by hotel staff early Thursday and informed to leave immediately when the appropriate funds from MLFB leadership were not supplied to cover the lodging expenses.
The MLFB is also a publicly-traded company, with shareholders and a listing ($MLFB).
The hotel staff was seen handing out luggage as they informed MLFB members of the insufficient funds, giving them 30 minutes to clear out their rooms and pack their materials.
One anonymous player posted a message on his Facebook detailing the scene.
“As the day goes on, the hotel isn’t letting anyone back in their rooms to get their stuff,” the player wrote, “basically holding our stuff hostage [because] of something that’s out of our control.”
Several players were left at the hotel without the requisite funds to catch a ride back home. Others were spotted in the hotel lobby waiting for family members to pick them up. Personnel had traveled from all over the country.
A GoFundMe was launched on Thursday to help cover expenses for players stuck at their hotels without the means to get home.
WKRG News 5’s Simone Eli relayed that the hotel’s intervention with MLFB members “happened at three of the four team hotels.”
The inaugural four-team football league season began its practices last week, hosted at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. Games were set to start in August, live from Mobile, in front of crowds forecasted at around 15,000-30,000 attendees.
A source from inside the league spoke with OutKick on Thursday, commenting that the players on the ground were “unhappy” over the chaotic scene that left them stranded and in a state of uncertainty with the league — also calling out a lack of communication during the scene from league CEO Frank Murtha, who was partly responsible for arranging the lodging.
Murtha previously worked as a sports agent and has spearheaded the football operation, defined as an alternative to mainstream football but not at a level in terms of an audience to compete with the NFL, XFL or USFL. The league saw itself as a bridge for aspiring pro football personnel and players.
MLFB members were informed on Thursday that league operations would pause briefly, then stick to the expectation of kicking off the season in a number of days. The general sentiment from the MLFB staff is that the projected start date is now highly doubtful following Thursday’s derailing event.
The league source added that some of the hotel officials eventually agreed to offer free lodging for players, acknowledging the blind-siding truth to their situation.
When asked if MLFB personnel got in contact with Frank Murtha, the anonymous member noted that the CEO spoke with one player and “pretty much laughed at him and said he wasn’t even in town.”
The player that reached out to Murtha was 26-year-old Cecil Cherry, a former Fan Controlled Football League player and Defensive Player of the Year.
Cherry spoke with OutKick and detailed his communications with Murtha, the mishandling of a league that attracted numerous talents with its pitch and the unfit schedule that players endured for nearly zero pay.
Cherry shared that up until Thursday, players participated in 10 days of practice, with several two-a-days included.
Initially, Cherry assumed he would be earning more than the $50 handed to him for his time on the field — also feeling that he, like many of the MLFB players, gave up steady opportunities to go all in on Murtha’s new league, only to see the operations crumble on Thursday.
Cherry shared that players have maintained full-time jobs and side work, concurrent to their time spent with the league, to keep their football dreams alive. Some players even passed on tryouts with the XFL to join the MLFB. I reached out to Murtha numerous times during Thursday’s event.
When Cherry requested an in-person meeting with Murtha to discuss the situation, the CEO responded by saying he was not in town and questioned why he would need to meet with Cherry.
The player added that Murtha laughed at him amid his outreach.
Cherry also noted that some players rejected by the hotel were sent to Ladd-Peebles Stadium where the venue’s staff offered to host the players overnight by allowing them to sleep in the press box.
When MLFB officials heard of the arrangements at the stadium, they objected to the move and offered to pay for a certain amount of rooms to house the players.
Mobile Sports Authority, who owns the venue, released a statement via WKRG.
“MSA was informed today that MLFB has not kept their contracted lodging payments up to date with our local hotel partners where the teams and staff were being housed for their 4-team training camp. …
“We understand there have been numerous discussions pertaining to those late payments with the MLFB ownership group and with the local hotels being used. But as of today, the required funds needed to continue their housing have not arrived.
“Therefore, those pertinent hotels had no choice but to terminate their contracts with MLFB, thereby ending the MLFB training camp in Mobile.”
MLFB spokesperson Bill Lyons provided a statement to WKRG, relaying the league had “no comment,” late Thursday. OutKick reached out to the league with no comment returned.
The MLFB’s teams include the Virginia Armada, Arkansas Attack, Ohio Force and Alabama Airborne.
Coaches that have signed on to lead MLFB teams include former NFL head coach Jerry Glanville, and vets such as Terry Shea, Earnest Wilson and Bill Conley.
Shea, who was the second MLFB head coach to be announced after Glanville, offered to pay expenses for players unable to afford their rooms after receiving the news.
One player at the scene told WKRG’s Brett Greenberg:
“Coach (Terry) Shea is a great dude, he was willing to pay out of his own pocket to make sure his players have one more night. Something you’ve got to respect, be grateful for bc other teams are scrambling…”
“Terry Shea is a well-known and well-respected coach with both college and NFL experience along with significant exposure to the challenges a new league faces,” Frank Murtha shared regarding Shea in his MLFB introduction. “The alignment with our values and his commitment to the sport will, no doubt, help to fuel the league’s success.”
Then there are guys like Alabama Airborne special teams coach Jesse Thompson, who left his head-coaching role at Franklin High School to join the start-up football league.
Jerry Glanville previously spoke on joining the developmental league.
“Every MLFB player was an outstanding college player,” Glanville said. “Our goal is to help them grow into a professional player and improve their skills and play, increasing their opportunities to join the NFL. Watching them grow and improve is the joy of teaching and coaching.”
It’s no secret that MLFB members were bullish on the league’s chances of becoming a legitimate stepping stone for talented footballers chasing an opportunity in the pros.
But now, it’s all in jeopardy.
On March 8, Murtha released a statement on the newly formed league’s vision as a business.
“As the only publicly traded professional sports league in the United States (at least that we can find), MLFB is governed by a number of rules on the release of material information that private companies are not,” Murtha said in part of his letter . “MLFB is making sure we stay within our boundaries while maintaining our mandate of adding value to our shareholders.”
Murtha is expected to deliver a statement on Friday regarding Thursday’s events.
OutKick’s Trey Wallace contributed to this story. Stay tuned with OutKick as they story develops.
Follow Alejandro Avila on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela