TAMPA — The Arena Football League is set to kick off its 25th season this weekend, and it looks like threats of a work stoppage may not dampen the silver anniversary celebration after all.
On Wednesday, players overwhelmingly voted in favor of advancing a possible strike, according to the Arena Football League Players Union.
But Thursday, AFL players union executive director Ivan Soto told the Orlando Sentinel that "the likelihood of a work stoppage has been reduced. The league has communicated with me and alluded that they will have something to present."
The impasse centered around player wages, which changed after the 2011 season. Last year, three "marketing" players per team were paid $1,000 per week while the rest made $400.
This season, all players will earn $400 per week, with the exception of starting quarterbacks, who are scheduled to make $1,650. In addition, players will receive a $50 bonus for each win and continue to have a housing and meal stipend.
In an open letter to fans on the AFLPU website, the union proposed a "wage increase (that) equates to about $850 per player per week."
The league is set to kick off the season tonight when Pittsburgh visits Orlando, a game televised by the NFL Network. The Storm opens its season Saturday night in Chicago. Tampa Bay practiced Thursday and is set to leave for Chicago this morning. Storm media relations director Jim Robinson said, "There had been no change in schedule."
Orlando TV station WKMG reported that the Predators have been holding secret practices with replacement players in the event of a strike. AFL commissioner Jerry Kurz told the Sentinel the games will carry on regardless of who's in uniform.
"We have signed, under contract, the very best AFL players," Kurz said. "If they choose, which is their right, to do a work stoppage or strike, we have other players in line that will put on a tremendous AFL product."