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Malecek Suspended

Major League Ultimate has suspended Brandon “Muffin” Malecek without pay for one game after he published a negative review of the Innova Pulsar, the official disc of Major League Ultimate, on a personal blog two days ago. [LATE UPDATE: The suspension has been reduced to a half-game, according to a Boston Whitecaps official.]

Last night, the post was removed from the Internet without comment. We have the full transcript of Malecek’s comments here.

According to Malecek’s fiancee, the league ordered the post be taken down and then suspended him for this weekend’s game.

She wrote:

There is nothing in the contract addressing players’ comments on sponsor products. (Although it can and will be argued that that is implicit.)

The game this weekend can’t impact the playoff status of the Whitecaps, but censorship as an issue in both MLU and AUDL is interesting and worthy of discussion.

I’m a fan of Innova disc golf discs (and the Pulsar, as a disc golf mid-range approach disc, is a good disc) and I’m a fan of most of what the MLU has done. I am not surprised by the disciplinary action taken by the MLU to protect its sponsor relationships, but I do think it is a petty reaction demonstrating the league’s insecurity.

Neither Malecek nor the league has responded to a request for comment.


About Charlie Eisenhood

Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email (charlie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

View all posts by Charlie Eisenhood →

  • I’m_just_sayin

    They should welcome player feedback, not punish, even if its negative. When the NBA tried a new ball in 2006 they gladly accepted players response and changed back in response, because they are the ones who have to use it. Muffin and any other player should feel free to express their opinion if for no other reason than for the benefit to the league that it provides.

    • Bob

      Beaten to the “New NBA Ball” reference. Because the NBA suspended players for saying they didn’t like the ball… wait that never happened.

      • nrojb

        i see the parallel, but it wasn’t a new brand. Spalding made both.

    • Mark

      Player feedback is probably welcome, but there is probably a process in place for that, which isn’t a public blog post.

      • Titus Tradewell

        In 2002 or 2006, they introduced a new ball during the World Cup. Keepers spoke out against it openly. Kickers do the same thing as the NFL changes (every season, it seems like) the ball to make kicks more difficult. I don’t believe any were sanctioned for it.

        Unless they specified in contract what he could and could not say and the mediums therein, it’s definitely overbearing, and more so when you consider that a sanction assumes that the player is taking a hit by not playing. I’m sure that Muffin will miss the $300 (or however much) he gets per game.

        All the MLU is telling current and future players is that they are welcome to be a part of the product, and not much else.

  • a bit ridiculous

    before you know it the MLU will be suing one of it’s teams for not having every player wearing frictions gloves…

  • pm

    MLU runs a tight ship. I worked for them but was fired after commenting on facebook that I thought one highlight was more espn worthy than another. I love the professionalism they bring and I think their vision is great for the most part, but in my experience things seem to be very totalitarian.

    • Titus Tradewell

      Did you have an employment contract that outlined that sort of thing? How did they frame the termination?

    • Joseph Marmerstein

      Wow, that’s crazy. Especially since their highlight choices were so bad (I even wrote them an email about it, never got a reply).

      Kind of disappointing to hear, I can understand why they would be slightly insecure since it is the first season but I hoped they would handle it better.

  • Samir Rohlin Hazboun

    As Julie Eagle (Malacek’s fiancee) pointed out this is a petty reaction and pretty disheartening. It means decisions are being made based on profit instead of what is best for the sport, players, and community as a whole.

    On the other hand no one should be surprised by this reaction. People from day one have been making the argument that that these kind of frustrations were going to come up as a natural consequence of letting corporate interests get their hands in the cookie jar. Obviously this incident isn’t on the level of the kind of stuff people who were up in arms about the professional leagues were talking about when they first raised concerns. However I can see this knee-jerk hierarchical reaction being used with more serious consequences further down the line.

    • Anonymous

      “It means decisions are being made based on profit instead of what is best for the sport, players, and community as a whole.”- These are not mutually exclusive aims.

      • BidBidBid

        Exactly my point. Clearly at some points e.g. the decision to create a professional league the interests line up and it works out well for everyone. However when the inevitable hiccups occur that come with growing a sport and your trump card is profit you set a dangerous precedent.

  • Jeremy

    A pretty understandable punishment from the MLU. No professional athlete in any league is allowed to openly trash a major sponsor.

    • L

      Why does the MLU have to be like any other professional sports league? I’ve always been drawn to ultimate because of its *difference* from other sports.

      • Nathan

        Given that the MLU motto has been “act as if” it were a major sport, this isn’t at all surprising. I also think that if he had been more tactful in his criticism he might not have gotten suspended. It is reactionary, might have been better for him not to get suspended and just issue an apology.

      • BidBidBid

        Exactly my thought process.

    • Willis

      Actually, this isn’t true. Well, maybe it’s true but there is an example of players from a major league, including a number of superstars, being highly critical of the league-issued playing equipment. I’m writing this from memory and don’t have good enough internet at the moment to do proper research, so apologies for any mistakes:

      When the NBA tried to introduce a new ball just a few years ago (2-3 years back, I believe) the player feedback was so negative and so public that the league backed down and resumed use of the previous ball.

      Above are the similarities. Here are the differences: players were critical of the new ball in a specific way, namely they felt the exterior material’s seams cut their hands more frequently than the old ball. With the proliferation of MRSA, including in several NBA locker rooms, the additional cuts were a potential health hazard, and both the League and the teams have an interest in protecting their investments in human capital. Furthermore, the NBAPA (the players’ union) was able to advocate on their behalf and point to the league-s non-consultation as against the collective bargaining agreement in some way or another. The ball manufacturer (Spalding, I believe) went back and re-engineered the material to address the issue, and the reformed, new ball was quietly brought in the subsequent season, if I remember correctly.

      Just had a burst of internet and found an article in the NYT. The issue happened in 2006. Here’s a link: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/06/sports/basketball/06ball.html?_r=0

  • Guest

    Does this make anyone else want to boycott the game in support of Malecek?

    • Brian

      Uh, no.

    • Julie Eagle

      Support him by coming to the game and cheering for him in the second half!
      The MLU players are playing because they love ultimate, definitely not for the money. The league succeeding is in the players’ best interest and the games are actually really fun.

      • anon

        This is the best response in this whole dumb thread of responses. The players i know who play in the MLU love playing the games and want the league to succeed. This whole episode sounds a little overblown from both sides. Mistakes will happen on and off the field and i’m sure all involved just want to concentrate on moving forward and putting on some awesome games. The people who are making a big deal out of this are all people who don’t want the league to succeed or the muck rakers who profit from stirring up web site clicks. I don’t know Brandon but i’m betting he made things right with his team and the league and just wants to play.

  • hsupac


  • Pittsburgh

    As you can see Ultimate Frisbee Community, there are far worse players than Alan Gruntz. At least he never got suspended! #GruntzMovement

    • sara



      Here’s hoping that pitchforks and torches can be recycled.

      • thepope@gmail.com

        Also hope no one gets hurt carrying all these crosses around.

  • Mitch

    Suspended without pay… so he won’t supersize his value meal this week?

  • Muffin

    Muffin is the shit, Muffin is the shit

  • Tom Pettit

    I’ve read here at one stage that Jeff Snader is pretty military with his coaching. Perhaps he’s under the impression that being commissioner is no different? That’d be a real shame and bode poorly for the league.

  • Guest

    Petty and disheartening indeed. I find it a bit sad that players can’t speak their minds without facing fines (in my opinion, almost as annoying as NBA players getting fined for speaking ANY criticism). I hope this is not the precedent the league intends to set. I can understand the MLU being a bit insecure for the first season and wanting to stand up for its sponsors, but this is a little ridiculous and I think it just makes the league look bad.

    • Jed

      I know that the league is around to be a business and all that. So there are rules to follow, but I hope that we’re still able to maintain why Ultimate isn’t like other sports. We’re a great community here and I hope we retain that aspect above all else.

  • Bryan Dombrowski

    Let’s just agree to disagree about these discs and just play with WHAM-O’s

  • Adam Shapiro

    I would love to see what an MLU player’s contract actually says. I know his fiancee said that there is nothing in the contract, and I am sure she is a lovely, talented, and smart woman, but the whole debate here comes down to the wording of the contract. If it explicitly or even pretty implicitly says that a player can not bash any sponsorship…then Muffin signed it and must deal with the consequence (however lame it may be). I really am not being facetious when referring to Mr. Malecek’s fiancee, however it may come off that way.

    BUT! If there is nothing in the contract, then I do not see what the legal grounds the MLU has to suspend a player without pay. Because they run such a “tight ship”, my guess is that the wording is in the contracts. If not, the MLU is setting themselves up for massive amounts of negative feedback (which we are already seeing), or at the worst some serious litigation…which carries soo sooo much more negative feedback in the longrun.

    At such a nascent moment in the program’s history, I must say that I am surprised the MLU is creating such negative publicity for the league.

    I really am not being facetious when referring to Mr. Malecek’s fiancee, however it may have come off that way.

    • BidBidBid

      I think getting caught in the legal technicalities is a mistake here. I think it’s in the the communities to use this as an opportunity to discuss the way the league *should* handle things. Not how they legally are *allowed* to.

      It’s important that we as a collective body of Ultimate players are very critical of the establishments that market themselves as the face of the sport. Much in the same way that the Genderification article shined a much needed spotlight on gender inequality in the professional leagues. A lot of people got very hung up on the fact that the professional leagues don’t *explicitly* prevent women from playing but intent and consequences are very different things.

  • Harbison Schwartzkopf

    If anyone doesn’t give a fuck, it’s probably Muffin.

  • Troy Revell

    Could have just had him take down the post and said “don’t do that” but took the next step to suspension and now EVERYONE is talking about the Innova disc issue… oops

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