For the first time, National Arena League Commissioner Chris Siegfried has discussed on the record developments in the ongoing situation regarding the Orlando Predators.
“I’ve been gathering information and have been made aware of some of these allegations,” Siegfried said in a phone interview. “There were some disciplinary actions levied against the Predators and they have the ability to dispute that and prove us wrong through the appeal process. We have to gather as much information as possible as there’s a bunch of claims out there and I’m still examining what is and is not fact. It is very disappointing to hear about these things and we want to do everything we can to make things right.”
The ongoing problems with the rebirth of the beloved Orlando Predators franchise continues as majority owner Kenny McEntyre spoke with the media for the first time. He spoke on the phone with Orlando’s ABC affiliate WFTV.
According to Siegfried, McEntyre has also told the league that all players are fully paid. Making sure the players are paid is a point of Siegfried.
“If a person performs a service, they’re owed a check. Period,” Siegfried said.
In response to McEntyre’s comments, more text messages were shared on Facebook by former Predators quarterback Baylin Trujillo.
“It’s a joke,” Trujillo said of McEntyre’s comments in a phone interview. “I went out of my way to reach out to the players that were having problems with getting paid. Not everybody has been paid up to date.”
Trujillo has been the primary voice for the players to date, speaking with the Last Word on Sports, WFTV and Orlando’s NBC affiliate WESH. He has also posted screenshots of text messages between him and other players, him and McEntyre, and photos of eviction notices and personal belongings thrown to the curb. Other players and people close to other players confirmed Trujillo’s evidence through comments on the posts.
“I’ve backed up everything I’ve claimed with fact, to match the claims with photos,” Trujillo said. “I’m not some unhappy employee. This is about what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong.”
So far, Trujillo has claimed a number of serious allegations against McEntyre. Those include issues with players’ housing and subsequent parking problems resulting in towing away players’ vehicles, one extreme case of a player hiding in another team apartment after eviction and paychecks bouncing due to lack of funds. But through the evidence he has posted describing the problems with the players, additional issues have also been raised.
One check posted by Trujillo came through a personal checking account of McEntyre. The check posted also had two different amounts listed, one in numerical form on the box and the other spelled out on the line. Trujillo also alleged that a player on the team had spent $4100 of his own money to pay for players after a game.
Additionally, Trujillo posted a screenshot of a credit card charge used to buy tickets for a Predators home game. That charge was listed instead through the team’s official transportation provider Apollo’s Chariots. According to Trujillo, the ticket purchaser then disputed the charge and got their money back.
All three are examples of commingling of funds, which could potentially lead to significant tax issues for McEntyre and the Predators and in some cases can be illegal.
Trujillo stated that he has spoken with other owners of the Predators and with Siegfried. He said he has not spoken with any criminal investigators.
Siegfried did not expand on what punishments were already levied against the Predators, but did explain the appeal process that a team or person could use.
“If there’s a fine or suspension, step one is for the team or player to pay the fine,” Siegfried said. “Once they pay the fine, they can appeal through email to me explaining why it should be overturned or reduced. You take context into play and possibly reduce it. I then consult with people not involved and make a ruling. In an event that they’re unsatisfied with my result, then the last step is to go through owners to the NAL Board of Directors.”
Siegfried encourages appeals in general as the facts involved usually get shown in someway to the commissioner to help improve situations in the league. He also said that all players involved in the current situation to email him directly with any evidence they have.
“I use direct evidence to identify and fix the problem,” Siegfried said. “I’m not going to be able to react to every single rumor and claim, but I will take notes. The league is listening.”
Trujillo stated that while he has championed the cause for the players, he has not gone through some of the more severe issues regarding the situation. An Orlando native that is not reliant on his game payments, Trujillo has tried to be vocal where others struggled to speak up.
While Trujillo has said that the vast majority of contact with people have been positive, a number of players fear retribution for speaking out.
“I’ll straight up ask others what I can put up and post,” Trujillo said “I can care less about what happens to me because this isn’t my livelihood.
Those fears were substantiated after Bill Serna, an assistant coach for the Carolina Cobras responded to one of Trujillo’s posts on social media.
If players were to be blacklisted or retaliated in some way akin to Serna’s description, it would be a violation of the Whistleblowers Protection Act of 1989.
“That is the exact reason why players are afraid of speaking out,” Trujillo said.
Siegfried said there would be punishment for any coach that discriminated against a player who expressed concerns about a team.
“If I find any coaches are discriminating against players for speaking with me, there will be substantial fines from the league. If its substantiated, that’s conduct detrimental to the league.”