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9/2/2010

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Some complain that contracts offered by Lingerie Football League don’t treat players fairly

 

It wasn’t the prospect of “accidental nudity” that troubled Mea Angelini. That’s just one of the risks you take when you play tackle football in a garter, bra and panties. It was concerns about liability and insurance coverage for potential injuries that turned her off, she says. 

When the 27-year-old saw the contract she would have to sign to play for the Orlando Fantasy, a new Lingerie Football League team scheduled to hold its inaugural game Sept. 24 at UCF Arena, she sought legal counsel. The contract, she was told, leaves players wide open to liabilities for playing on the team; it only offered players limited insurance coverage for injuries; it required players to acknowledge that they could be fined penalties for a list of offenses relative to how they conduct themselves both on and off the field;  and it listed a $5,000 “early termination fee” for players who don’t complete the season. 

For the $100 to $200 she might earn per game, Angelini says, it wasn’t worth it. So, even though she was offered a spot on the team – something she’d worked hard for all summer – her name did not appear on the official roster of Orlando Fantasy players released by the LFL last week. 

“I don’t want to sign the contract,” she says. “I could be sued by another if I hurt someone, anyone, including other players.” 

Angelini is one of a handful of women whose concerns about the LFL’s confidential player contract overrode their desire to play for the LFL. Two players selected by the LFL to speak to Orlando Weekly for a recent cover story (“Balls Out,” Aug. 19) about the Fantasy – Lenni Michaels and Brenna LeMaster – were not listed on the team’s official roster either.

Michaels, a 21-year-old aspiring model, says she also declined to sign the contract after talking to a lawyer. “He said I would be an idiot to sign it,” she says in an e-mail explaining her decision. “Plus, I didn’t agree with anything in it. It was absolutely ridiculous.” 

Orlando Weekly received a copy of a contract alleged to be the one LFL players were asked to sign. The league’s media director, Stephon McMillen, acknowledged that the document “appears to be an LFL ‘confidential’ player agreement, though it would need to be confirmed by our general counsel’s office.” 

Among other things, the document says: 

“I have been advised and hereby acknowledge that the League, Practices, League events and League games will involve full-body, physical contact with other participants in a football setting which includes some risk of injury … I hereby assume the risk of injury that may occur during the course of providing my services hereunder.” 

The contract further states that players agree to use their own “primary policy” to cover medical expenses related to injuries that take place on the field; players that don’t have their own insurance policies can obtain limited coverage (up to $10,000 per injury) through the LFL for a cost of $250. 

Angelini says if she signed the contract, she would have been playing the game as a professional, and the premium for her personal health-insurance policy would have jumped several thousand dollars. She talked to the LFL about her concerns regarding the contract but says she was told revisions wouldn’t be considered. She says she was also told that if she wouldn’t sign, the LFL would find another player who would. 

“It’s sad for the sport of women’s football,” Angelini says. “Some of the best players are not going to be able to play.”

This isn’t the first time the LFL’s contracts have come under fire from unhappy players. In December 2009, The Smoking Gun (www.thesmokinggun.com) posted a copy of the LFL’s player contract on its website and pointed out that it required players to acknowledge that they were OK with accidental nudity that might occur during games.  The Smoking Gun also reported that players for some LFL teams said that the organization was reneging on promises to pay up for players’ injuries. The LFL responded to the players’ complaints by threatening to sue them for making defamatory statements about the league. 

The LFL’s McMillen says that four women offered spots on the Orlando Fantasy chose not to sign the league’s contract. He says their objections were due to a misunderstanding of the league’s fines policy – “and two of them came back to us begging to have the opportunity to re-sign and we passed.” 

“We certainly have no shortage of ladies that want to be a part of the Orlando Fantasy,” he says. “In fact, it is one of our most in-demand markets.”

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