ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Antonio Brown discussed the issues with paying players and former Head Coach Damon Ware for the first time publicly on Wednesday. Ware, as well as six players, left the team on Monday after they claimed they were not paid before their game on Sunday with the Carolina Cobras.
When asked by NEWS10 Sports Director Griffin Haas if those players were paid, Brown said, “Everyone’s paid here. I’m running a business. The MVP Arena is paid. I don’t don’t know what the minutiae of the articles, I don’t want to get into the ‘he said, she said.’ Everyone is paid. If everyone wasn’t paid you wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t be here.”
When asked again if those specific players that left the team were paid, Brown said, “Everybody on our payroll, you know payroll right? You know pay checks? You know you cant just get paid when you want, right? You know they run a course, right?”
Brown went on to say, “I don’t want to make this about me but I want to make this clear. I have put the most money ever into this community thus far. Into this team thus far. I paid a $1.5 million bill for workers comp. You think I want to hear a player who’s concerned about my payroll? Do you understand I just took over the situation here 100%?”
Brown spoke with the media at a press conference to reintroduce Tom Menas as the team’s head coach. Menas was fired on April 6th. He led the team to back-to-back NAL titles.
Menas, who wasn’t with the Empire at the time but has a relationship with the players that left, provided some additional insight into what happened. “I wish I was here because I think I could have handled it different with the guys and let them know but it did happen,” said Menas. “Were they paid late? Yeah they were paid late, and then they were paid in full. And that was another one of my conditions to coming here was making sure all of the players had been paid.”
Menas added he’s experienced payroll glitches at every level of football outside of the NFL, including with former Empire owner Mike Kwarta, but added it was always taken care of.
Menas gave one main reason for his return. “My choice was to come here and keep football in upstate New York for the fans of the Albany Empire and the people of the Capital Region. That’s why I’m here.”
Brown spoke on why he brought Menas back, after he was fired less than a month ago. “It was a no-brainer man. Coach Menas is a championship coach. I don’t know what happened to the past or the previous before I met coach, but I only see a professional guy who cares about his players.”
Menas had told NEWS10 Tuesday night that Damon Ware, who left the team after the payment issue, was set to return as the team’s offensive coordinator. But Wednesday, Menas said Ware would instead be taking a job with the Orlando Predators.
The process to rebuild the roster started with new quarterback, former Division-II Heisman winner Roland Rivers III. As for getting a largely new roster up to speed in three days before the Empire’s home game Saturday against West Texas? “Almost impossible,” said Menas. “Almost impossible. Now will we do it? Of course we will. But almost impossible.”
The Empire host the Warbirds at 7:00 PM on Saturday.