CIF suit of Edge, Ironmen barely muddies IFL waters Jan 20, 2018 21:57:37 GMT -8
Post by DiamondThief on Jan 20, 2018 21:57:37 GMT -8
The water finally seemed to be clear. Now, there is a little mud thrown into that water. Just a little.
Three weeks ago, Champions Indoor Football filed suit against two of its former teams, the Bloomington Edge and the West Michigan Ironmen. The suit, the specific details of which are not made public, centers around the teams departing the CIF in the fall to join the Indoor Football League. The teams reportedly signed agreements to compete in the CIF for the 2018 season prior to breaking those agreements to join the IFL.
In September, the IFL's Sioux Falls Storm and Wichita Falls Nighthawks announced they would move from the IFL to the CIF. The Storm has since returned to the IFL after seemingly being disappointed by the management of their would-be new league. The Nighthawks organization found itself in flux. Should it attempt to compete in the CIF or find another option? In the end, the Nighthawks went dormant for the 2018 season. Perhaps the Nighthawks were looking to compete in the CIF or perhaps the organization wanted to find a way to return to the IFL as the Storm did. Perhaps the Nighthawks had signed an agreement and that the only way to get out of it was to go dormant, or to fold. Whether the Nighthawks re-emerge in either league in 2019 is anyone's mystery.
It seems the CIF is attempting to either bring back the two teams, or to recoup monies from teams it deems of breaking the Agreements. Specifically, we do not know if it's either or if it is simply a matter of pride of the CIF standing up for itself; a show of bravado, if you will.
Much speculation is abounding when it comes to this issue. We are under four weeks away from the start of the IFL and CIF seasons. The respective schedules for the leagues have been established and released. It's curious what the CIF's action is out of respect for the game, or if it is designed to recoup money. Then again, the CIF could be trying to save some face. Maybe it is trying to bring these teams back to the CIF.
Obviously, that is not going to happen. Whatever the ultimate goal for the CIF's is, it's apparently secret.
There are a plethora of questions regarding these matters. What legal standing does the CIF have in filing its lawsuits against the Edge and Ironmen? They have filed their claim in the County Court of Woodbury, Iowa. This is curious in several ways, the most being that it is a county court. If the court denies the CIF lawsuit, it could die there. If the court grants a temporary restraining order, then it could continue.
SCtoC CEO and founder Kasey is an attorney and I have now deemed her as our legal analyst. We have asked her to navigate the major general legal issues behind this lawsuit. Her request is that I preface this with the fact she has not seen the specific agreements between the Edge and Ironmen, and the CIF. She will help us touch on the general legal questions regarding this lawsuit.
She tells me that there are three primary areas on which to pay attention.
A Temporary Restraining Order can be used to stop a party from proceeding in actions of one way or another which are related to the lawsuit itself. The CIF could have included this in its lawsuit to prevent the Edge and/or the Ironmen from taking the field in the IFL for the 2018 season.
Kasey: "I would expect that the CIF would include a TRO in this action to, essentially, stop the teams from playing in a different league other than its own in 2018. The timing of this lawsuit ... that it is so close to the start of the season, would seem to indicate that. I would be surprised if the suit did not include a TRO. The CIF could be looking for some revenge for the teams leaving for the IFL and try to cripple the IFL by knocking it down from eight to six teams. Given this late date, the IFL would have to scramble to reset its schedule and salvage its 2018 season. The CIF may relish in the opportunity to create that havoc for the IFL. If that is not the goal, we could be looking at an attempt for the CIF to attempt to lure the teams back to its league. It's my understanding that at this late date, it would not be for 2018, so that would likely leave the teams dormant this season and appear back in the CIF next season. It's difficult to tell what the CIF's true motives are, and while I would be surprised if there is no TRO, it's impossible to tell if a TRO is included in the suit without seeing the actually package of the suit itself. Stopping the teams from playing may not be the CIF's goal at all; we just don't know, though it seems a distinct possibility. The one thing we should be sure of is that copies of the teams' agreements with the CIF for 2018 are attachments contained within the suit."
The CIF may be looking to cripple the IFL by leaving two of its teams dormant and not able to join the league for another year. History of indoor football tells us that in many cases teams which go dormant for a season, they never return to their current or any other league. So what happens if there is a TRO and the judge grants it?
"A granted TRO can be a first step. Courts can be notoriously slow. That said, the teams could appeal, requesting an 'immediate' hearing to reconsider the TRO in hopes of reversing it. That hearing can be scheduled within days. We saw this with the court appeals from Ezekiel Elliott against the (National Football League) earlier this season. Each appeal date came rather quickly. It also should be noted that, depending on Iowa state law, the teams may not be confined to filing their appeals in the same Court. If a TRO (should there actually be one) is granted by one court, then the teams could seek out another judge in the county or even a next-level higher court in which to file such an appeal. Again, this depends on the legal filing conditions of the law in the state of Iowa."
That's an interesting point about the Ezekiel Elliott appeals. We all saw the seemingly endless parade of court filings by the Dallas Cowboys' running back. I read Kasey's previous comment as the possibly of a long-term progression.
Kasey tells us that it's nearly unheard of for an Agreement between two parties, such as the Agreements between the Edge and Ironmen and the CIF, to not contain an escape clause. Basically, teams and the league itself have respective "outs" should there be a reason for any team to wish to leave a league or for the league to kick out a team which it feels is not pulling its weight (usually, for financial reasons).
"The CIF and IFL are professional football leagues. It may be a small sport with a finite group of fans, but these leagues have to be deemed as professionals. Each side would certainly have conditions of being able to release. I believe the IFL had to cut off a couple teams in Minnesota a couple of years ago because they did not meet financial obligations. This would be a cause of the IFL exercising its 'escape clause.' To be clear, it probably would not be called that, but there would be a synonymous definition. The teams could have exercised this type of clause when they left for the IFL. The catch is that there could be a financial penalty for the teams for leaving. This could be the CIF sticking point in this suit. If there is a penalty and it has not been paid, the CIF's lawsuit can get some traction. It's my understanding that the (Arizona) Rattlers and (Iowa) Barnstormers may have paid these types of funds-at least that's been reported. We don't know this for sure, but if those teams have paid these penalties, then I don't see how the CIF has a chance at winning this suit. I would not even see how the CIF could win a TRO. This could be a losing proposition. This all is really difficult to know for sure what the conditions of the escape clause may be without seeing the Agreements. Everything is dependent on the wording of the contracts. I cannot stress that enough."
I wonder which scenario this is about. Have the Rattlers and Barnstormers taken care of any of those penalties? Have the Edge and Ironmen taken care of any exit responsibilities? If there is a penalty, how much will be imposed?
"Given the size of the CIF and other factors, I would give a blanket estimate of an exit clause penalty at roughly a quarter of a million. It may be higher or it may be lower. If anything, more likely lower. That figure seems reasonable in our context. Remember, whether any such penalty exists and has been paid can only be known to the principles in this case."
Kasey also told me that she considers this the "meat" of the situation and that it will ultimately be what determines this case. She said the "escape clause" is the biggest issue in this lawsuit (by any terminology). In brief, this is what the lawsuit is likely all about.
As I mentioned above, the case was filed in the Court of Woodbury County, Iowa, which is located in the Northwest corner of that state near Sioux City (The Bandits of the CIF call that city their home). Why not file this in a federal courthouse? There is a federal courthouse in Sioux City, Iowa. The IFL is spread out over seven states, including two teams in the state of Iowa (Cedar Rapids Titans and Iowa Barnstormers). Iowa is the only state which contains more than one IFL team. If the CIF was determined to file its lawsuit in the state of Iowa, why was it not filed in a federal courthouse? I asked Kasey that very question.
"The fact that this suit was filed in a county court is more than curious. The first question which comes to mind is whether any decision at this level of juris prudence is required by the teams to be binding. The Edge are located in Illinois, the Ironmen are located in Michigan, and the IFL is headquartered in Nebraska. Though it may be possible that any action can apply to teams outside of the state of Iowa, I feel it's very unlikely that that the Edge, Ironmen and IFL would be held legally binding by a County Court. This is a bit of a gray area which I would think would favor the teams and the IFL. An obscure idea here is that if the Court finds in favor of the CIF, that the Edge and Ironmen would be legally unable to play road games in Cedar Rapids or Des Moines, but be allowed to play anywhere outside of Iowa. I highly doubt that would be the case, but it is a longshot option which could be entertained. I would not expect a CIF win in this suit would hamper the Edge and the Ironmen from competing in the IFL in 2018. Though, there are many uncertainties here, in my opinion."
Big question here: why would the CIF file suit in a county court in the state of Iowa when it could have driven 10 minutes down the road (not including time for parking, of course) to file in a United States Circuit Court? What would that mean?
"From everything I understand and from everything I gather from this suit, it seems to be largely symbolic. My opinion only, but this seems to be the CIF sticking up for itself but at least putting up a fight. Anything can happen. A clever CIF attorney could make an out-of-the-box argument in front of an amiable judge and make a punch. Then again, the teams could have clever attorneys who can point out that they have complied, or will comply, with the CIF's escape clause determinations. I don't think this action will garner much merit. As I said, this lawsuit filing seems largely symbolic on the part of the CIF."
In a couple other notes, it has also been reported that the Rattlers have offered a six-digit figure and potential legal help to the Edge and the Ironmen to make the jump to the IFL. This is a distinct possibility that there is existing IFL support, through the Rattlers, that there are resources for the new teams. These reports have been unconfirmed, but potentially reliable.
The next step on all of this the next hearing. Along with Kasey we have tried to summarize the legal possibilities regarding the CIF's lawsuit against the IFL's two newest teams. From what I have researched, written and read, I expect the Edge and Ironmen to go forward and see the 2018 season as members of the IFL.
Note: Updates will follow in the comments section of this thread.
Angi Says is a periodic blog written by the vice president of forum operations of Sports Coast to Coast. It generally features topics from the sports which are covered on the forum.
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