The National Arena League kicked the Albany Empire out of the league Thursday after team owner Antonio Brown failed to pay either a required fee or a fine he received after recent public comments.
"After exhausting all avenues, the NAL board of owners have decided unanimously to terminate the membership agreement of the Albany Empire," the league said in a release. "The decision was reached after an emergency conference call of the members in good standing to discuss the Empire's failure to pay their league mandated and overdue assessments."
Brown became the majority owner of the upstate New York team in April. Under terms of league ownership, all teams are required to pay one-seventh of the NAL operating budget via monthly transactions. The league said Brown made the April payment but didn't pay the May 15 installment or a $1,000 fine for conduct detrimental to the league. Brown also challenged the April payment, which was credited back to him.
The NAL said the team accountant informed officials "that it didn't seem like Mr. Brown was going to pay the assessment or fine," leading to the emergency conference call.
The membership gave the Empire until noon ET Thursday to make the payment. When they didn't pay, the NAL canceled the team's Saturday home game against the Jacksonville Sharks, and it will adjust the rest of the league's 2023 regular-season schedule without the Albany squad.
Since Brown bought the Empire -- becoming a part-owner in March and taking over a 94% stake in the franchise in May -- the team has been through multiple coaches, and both quarterbacks on the roster were released after last weekend's loss to the Orlando Predators that dropped Albany to 1-6. The Empire had entered the season as two-time defending champions.
Brown, a four-time NFL All-Pro wide receiver, had vowed to play for the Empire but had yet to do so. He practiced Wednesday and caught passes from quarterback Dalton Cole -- who played at Division III Brevard College and played for the Sharks for a short time -- before giving an interview in which he questioned whether "AB" was going to pay him; Brown has stated in the past that AB the owner and Antonio Brown the player are different people.
Albany County's executive committee released a statement, saying: "This is an unfortunate situation. We are aware MVP Arena management is alerting ticketholders and we will be reviewing options moving forward." MVP Arena management, which operates the Empire's home, announced it is refunding tickets purchased for the team's final three home games.
Thursday's decision was the latest drama during Brown's tenure in Albany. Players and suppliers complained about not getting paid, and eight players were suspended after one player filed an aggravated harassment report with police over a dispute that occurred on the team bus, The Albany Times-Union reported last month.
Brown's father, Eddie Brown, was a legend in the former Arena Football League and starred for the Albany Firebirds.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.