It has been a bizarre week for the AAF after rumors of a $250 million bailout and now the Orlando Apollos are going to practice in Georgia. Thanks to a weird Florida rule that does not recognize pro athletes as employees, the Apollos must have 51 percent of their practice hours in Georgia to allow their players to have insurance coverage, per the Orlando Sentinel.
The team plans to set up shop at a Jacksonville hotel then bus about 30 minutes north to Kingsland, Georgia where they will practice. These are the sort of growing pains that a startup league must overcome. The Apollos will still play their home games in Orlando at Spectrum Stadium.
“We tried to call some big shots in Tallahassee to get it worked out, but I never could get through to the insurance commissioner [David Altmaier],” Spurrier told the Orlando 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.”
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the AAF has been unable to find an insurance company that will cover all eight of their teams, so teams are having to do it at a state level.
AAF officials say the reason this is even an issue is because Florida, unlike many other states, will not cover professional athletes under its workers’ compensation laws. In Florida, professional athletes are not categorized as employees, which means state law prevents pro athletes from filing workers’ comp claims for injuries incurred while on the job…
In the interim, the Alliance must count on Georgia to provide an insurance company that will cover players. Georgia will cover Apollos players as long as the team spends at least 51 percent of its practice days on Georgia soil. According to Apollos coach Steve Spurrier, the team will spend 36 days practicing in Georgia and will bus back to Orlando for the one home game (March 16 vs. the Arizona Hotshots) they play during that stretch.
Orlando Has One of the Best Offenses in the League
The Apollos are hoping that the inconvenient travel schedule will not slow down the team’s momentum. Steve Spurrier’s “Sun and Gun” offense has the Apollos looking like one of the best teams in the league. SB Nation detailed the 90-minute drive the team will take from Jacksonville to Orlando for their games.
The issue lies with the fact that Florida doesn’t categorize professional athletes as employees and won’t secure insurance coverage for them. — and that the AAF hasn’t been able to secure private coverage on its own…
Since the Apollos won’t have to practice exclusively in Georgia all season (more on that in a minute), the team will bus back to Orlando for the one home game on March 16 against the Arizona Hotshots. Speaking as a 407 native, that drive isn’t terrible, but it’s certainly harder than already being in Orlando in the first place.