Rumors swelling on the potential close of the National Gridiron League, gained some clarity late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.
The trouble began in November, Indiana Blue Bombers head coach Kelvin Kinney told Fort Wayne’s NBC Sports Director Chris Ryan.
Coaches were told they’d be paid. It is now April. They never were.
Despite lack of compensation, Kinney and his coaching staff are adamant, they did the best they could to foster a team culture and player-friendly environment.
Even though the coaches had not been paid, Kinney believed, entirely, that there would be a 2019 season.
“I’m sure you could talk to any coach in the league,” Kinney explained.
“They did not know. No one knew this would happen.”
A call on Friday March 29 changed Kinney’s thoughts.
National Gridiron League owner Joe McClendon told Kinney that an anti-trust lawsuit had been delivered.
“I believed in him until last Friday,” Kinney said early Wednesday morning.
“Maybe, the anti-trust lawsuit is what did it.”
Details on the lawsuit were not conveyed to Kinney.
The lawsuit is not all that ended the trust this league would make it.
Kinney says that he also found out on Friday that his players would not be getting paid the $200 dollars, per week, his players were earlier promised.
After sleeping on it, Kinney knew what to do.
“At the end of the day, things weren’t being done that were promised,” Kinney said.
“We don’t want to be a part of that. At least, do right by the players. If we do that, then we can live with it.”
Kinney sent a letter to his players on Saturday, notifying them of their release from the Blue Bombers.
Per another Blue Bombers coaching staff source, Kinney notified players of their release on Saturday because the staff committed to the players from day one of recruiting, to always be transparent and honest, regarding their view on the league.
Back on March 10, eight players reported to Canterbury Green Apartments with one-year leases and furniture, paid for by McClendon,
“I mean, everything was moving forward,” Kinney said.
“It was slow, but everything was moving forward.”
“It’s another league, another opportunity for guys.”
Kinney says practices were supposed to begin on March 12.
On March 11, the League released the information that schedules would be getting pushed back.
“The last thing we wanted to do was walk away from it, if we felt like it had a chance.”
“Players left their jobs.”
“We had some guys who were on Saint Francis (Fort Wayne), who could play in front of family. That’s great for somebody 26-years-old.”
Kinney was excited about his roster.
“I think all our guys could play in the Arena League,” Kinney said.
“That’s how good I think our team was. If any team need an Arena player, we had 24 of them.”
“We watched numerous guys on film. We took the time to find these guys.”
“We put so much time and effort into this thing, and then for it not to go…”
Still, Kinney believes McClendon had good intentions.
“Why would you have guys reporting? Why buy furniture?”
“Why would he do that if he was going to back out?” Kinney questioned.
“I don’t want it to seem like he deceived anybody. It’s a lot.”
“You are the sole owner of all 12 teams. I don’t know if he bit off more than he could chew.”
That leaves the National Gridiron League with a whole lot of former employees, at least from Indiana, who were never paid.
Kinney is doing what he can to fix the problem.
“We can’t just leave these guys. The league is not going to play.”
Kinney sent out an email to the players, offering help in any way possible and, along with assistant coach Guy Lee, promptly, offered up his roster to fellow coaches.
“They are intrigued.”
Kinnie spoke with Greg Anderson, president of the San Diego Air Strike, who already picked up one of his players and will continue to look at the Blue Bombers roster.
The Cedar Rapids River Kings of the Indoor Football League have picked up a Blue Bomber and are looking at the roster, thanks to the help of Kings defensive coordinator Joey Smith.
Again, Kinney wishes all his players would get a shot, and with that, sends nothing but the best for McClendon and the NGL.
“It gives the guys the opportunity to play.”
Despite calling, McClendon has been unavailable for comment. His voicemail is full.