The Alliance of American Football took another PR hit this morning when the Orlando Sentinel published a story about about the Orlando Apollos having to pick up and move their practice to Georgia at the beginning of March. The team has to do so due to the state of Florida excluding professional athletes from receiving workers compensation insurance coverage.
According to the story, Florida will not cover professional athletes and categorize them as “employees”, which means that state law prevents them from filing workers comp claims if they are injured on the job. Other professional leagues have teams in the state, including the Orlando Magic in the same city, but all the leagues have found insurance companies that insure their entire league. The AAF hasn’t found a company that will insure all eight teams in the league because football is such a dangerous sport.
So to remedy the situation, the team will be housed in a hotel in Jacksonville starting next week and for a little more than a month have to bus 30 minutes over state lines to practice at a high school in Kingsland, GA. The team will still play their home games in Orlando at UCF.
“The insurance market covering both professional football and startup companies is limited,” Alliance Head of Player Relations David Cohen said to the Orlando Sentinel. “Established sports organizations have long-standing relationships with carriers. We are continuing to aggressively pursue workers compensation coverage that allows our Orlando team to be Florida employees and practice in Florida the entire season.”
Georgia will cover the players as long as the team spends at least 51% of its practice days on the ground in Georgia. Steve Spurrier told the Orlando Sentinel that they will spend 36 days practicing in Georgia and then will bus back to Orlando for the one home game they play during that stretch.
“We tried to call some big shots in Tallahassee to get it worked out, but I never could get through to the Insurance Commissioner,” Spurrier said to the Sentinel. “We’re not crazy about the set-up (of having to practice in Georgia), but it’s all we can do. When you’re in a new league, sometimes you just have to make adjustments.”