The owner of the Pittsburgh Power fired all 24 members of his team during a pregame meal at an Orlando-area Olive Garden.
With AFL players set to strike before the 2012 season opener, owner Matt Shaner reacted first, cutting his entire team hours before kickoff of a game against the Orlando Predators.Mid-statement, all the players got up and left,” former Power center Beau Elliott told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Every player got up and left while he was still talking. There were 15 to 20 angry, large individuals.”
The AFL Player’s Association was calling for an increase in the $400 game checks paid to most players on each team. The union demanded a 300 percent increase in the minimum salary. AFL owners countered with a $100 raise.
Shaner told the newspaper that some players split from the union and returned to the team in time for Saturday night’s game. Those who didn’t were stuck in Orlando and forced to return to Pittsburgh on their own.
Members of the Predators were also released.
The game was still played, with unfilled roster spots being taken by replacement players, some of whom arrived to the arena minutes before kickoff. One backup quarterback switched teams before the game after getting “drafted” during a pregame selection. As a result, the season opener had the feeling of a pick-up game down by the local high school field.
The NFL Network broadcast the game live. Announcers reportedly couldn’t identify a number of players.
Pittsburgh won 40-26, in front of more than 13,000 fans.
Other AFL teams played the same day with complete rosters.