An arena football team owned by former All-Pro NFL wide receiver Antonio Brown has been kicked out of its league.
The National Arena League announced its decision to "unanimously terminate the membership agreement of the Albany Empire," after the team had "exhausted all avenues," according to a news release shared on its official website on Thursday (June 15).
"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. Each team is responsible to pay for 1/7 of the league’s operating budget via monthly assessments starting in April," the league said.
Brown, 34, was also "fined $1,000 for Conduct Detrimental to the League" for comments he recently made and refused to pay the fine, according to the league.
"After acquiring the Albany Empire, new team owner Antonio Brown paid the Empire’s April assessment," the news release stated. "The team then failed to make their May 15th assessment payment and last week just before the Empire’s game in Orlando, the league was notified that the April assessment was being challenged. That payment was subsequently credited back to Mr Brown.The league informed his accountant, Alex Gunaris, who in previous communications requested that the league communicate directly with Mr Gunaris regarding financial obligations with the Empire. Mr Gunaris was informed of the league's attempts to collect the delinquent assessments and he communicated to the league that it didn't seem like Mr Brown was going to pay the assessment or fine.
"Once the league was alerted of Mr Brown’s intentions, an emergency conference call was set up. During the call, it was decided to give the Empire until Thursday at noon to make their payment, after which time the league would be forced to cancel their home game with Jacksonville, and terminate their membership in the National Arena League effective immediately. Unfortunately Mr Brown has failed to meet the deadline to his teams required financial obligations, and as a result the league has terminated his membership Agreement."
Brown purchased a majority stake in the Empire, the two-time defending Arena League champions, in April and the team had struggled after his purchase. The 34-year-old hasn't played in a professional football game since storming off the field during the third quarter of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the New York Jets on January 2, 2022, having been released by the Bucs hours after the incident.
Brown was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 196 overall in the sixth-round of the 2010 NFL Draft and quickly emerged as a perennial Pro Bowl selection before demanding a trade amid a contract dispute prior to the 2019 season. The Miami native was later cut by Pittsburgh's trade partner, the then-Oakland Raiders, prior to ever appearing in a regular-season game.
Brown spent several games in 2019 with the New England Patriots and two seasons with the Buccaneers, with both tenures ending in controversy. The former Central Michigan standout was a four-time First-team All-Pro (2014-17), a Second-team All-Pro in 2013 and a seven time Pro Bowl selection (2011, 2013-18), having led all NFL players in receiving yards twice (2014, 2017), receptions twice (2014, 2015) and receiving touchdowns in 2018.