The Sioux Fall Storm are members of the Indoor Football league (not to be confused with the Arena Football League, although, truth be told, I am confused). They have won the league championship four years in a row (bet you did not know that) and were well on their way to a 5th title, having won their first six games in 2009. Then they made a big mistake. They neglected to purchase workers comp insurance for the team.
The league owners, all of whom have had hopes of a championship crushed by the relentless Storm, came up with a set of sanctions unique in the history of workers comp. The owners forced the Storm to forfeit the first six games of the season (6 and 0 instantly becomes 0 and 6). In addition, the Storm is only allowed to dress 20 players for future games (other teams can have 21). Finally, if the Storm should overcome the formidable obstacle of six losses and reach the playoffs, they are not allowed to host the initial playoff game. That sounds like roughing the franchise to me!
League owners have converted one team's failure to buy insurance into leverage to ensure that someone else - anyone else - wins the title this year. I have no idea which teams are any good, so I have handicapped my preferences based solely upon the intriguing names:
Maryland Maniacs (I am not making this stuff up!)
Everett (WA) Destroyers
And then there is the Kent*. No, not the Kent Asterisks. This is either an expansion team or inactive franchise, currently lacking a name. Given that they represent Seattle, I think something nerdy might be in order: The Kent Keyboards? Or given the need to project a violent image, how about the Kent (Hard Drive) Crashers?
Comp in Professional Sports
We have blogged the uneasy fit between workers comp and professional athletes. There really is no class that reflects the risks of being a football player. Given that the estimated premium for covering the Storm is about $200,000, it appears that insurance coverage per player runs in the range of $8,000 to $10,000.
Storm team President Colin Steen is not happy with the penalty:
"Clearly, these outrageously harsh punitive measures, imposed by a majority vote of IFL team owners, are intended to place the Sioux Falls Storm and its players at a competitive disadvantage against the other teams in the League for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs for a mistake that was totally unrelated to competition on the field."
Steen is correct, but unfortunately his only recourse puts the issue right back into the hands of the same resentful owners who dreamed up the sanctions. In other words, it may be roughing the franchise, but the call stands.
This situation reeks of conflict of interest. It's admirable and necessary to enforce insurance requirements on all teams, but in this case, the penalty is totally out of alignment with the infraction. It's piling on - a fairness problem in most endeavors, but perhaps appropriate for indoor football.