Wait? A USFL player got cut for asking for pizza over chicken salad?
So, the USFL, version 2.0 or 3.0 or something made it's debut this past weekend and by most accounts was solid football and debuting to pretty decent ratings.
In an odd twist, the league is hosting all 8 teams in Birmingham where they will play all of their games in one of the city's two football stadiums.
The rosters, as expected consist mostly of fringe players who may have been former draft picks who didn't make it, practice squad players and a slew of free agents. The coaches have a few well-known names. Former Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz, former University of Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin, former North Carolina head coach Kevin Sumlin, former Kansas City Chiefs head coach Todd Haley, former Titans head coach Jeff Fisher and more.
The league has also kept the names of several franchises that existed in the league's original incarnation back in the 1980's. That version of the USFL went bankrupt after a um, New York property developer and self-professed "genius" bought the New Jersey Generals and began paying players way more money than any team (including his) could afford.
But, I digress.
It might not be the big-name coaches, the performance on the field or the performance on video/television that gets the league some early headlines. Instead it appears a strange but true incident off the field has gotten the upstart league in the news. For all of the wrong reasons.
Sunday night, De'Veon Smith, a running back from Michigan who has spent time on the practice squad of both the Miami Dolphins and Washington Commanders got cut from the Pittsburgh Maulers for what it appears, is asking a hotel worker at the team hotel if he could get pizza instead of the chicken salad he was originally offered.
According to reports, Smith was told he could not have the pizza and allegedly just walked away.
A short time later, he was called to the proverbial "principals office" where the Maulers head coach, Kirby Wilson told him he was being released for violating a league rule in regards to respect and behavior towards others.
I should note that before this incident happened, the Maulers were scheduled to play their first game of the season Sunday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Bandits but the game was postponed until Monday afternoon due to weather in the Birmingham area on Sunday.
So, the questions here are pretty extensive: Smith claims he didn't say anything other than asking for the pizza and walking away when told he couldn't get it. Which would lead to the first question--was he lying?
Did Wilson ask everyone involved what happened? Was there some other issues before this that put Smith on thin ice?
We have questions. Lots of questions. On the surface, this makes absolutely no sense and may be one of the most insane things we've ever seen or read about.
No, this isn't going to ruin the USFL version 2.0 before it ever gets started but if it's true Smith got fired for turning down chicken salad and walking away when he couldn't get pizza, what does it say about the league behind the scenes? The league is apparently paying the players $45,000 for the season plus bonuses when their team wins and a $10K bonus for players who win the championship.
BUT----a side note here, the players are responsible for paying their living expenses at the hotel. The league hotel is offering them rooms for $75 a night and the ability for players to room together and split costs.
The league also has quite a TV deal with FOX and NBC Sports both broadcasting games, including some simulcasts. Additional games will be on Fox's Sports Network (FS 1) and NBC's cable network USA Network.