AUDL Settles Lawsuit With Connnecticut and Rhode Island Franchises

A drawn-out legal battle between the American Ultimate Disc League and two of its franchises -- the Connecticut Constitution and the Rhode Island Rampage -- came to a close tonight after a settlement agreement reached earlier this month was finalized.

A drawn-out legal battle between the American Ultimate Disc League and two of its franchises — the Connecticut Constitution and the Rhode Island Rampage — came to a close tonight after a settlement agreement reached earlier this month was finalized.

The details of the settlement aren’t completely known, as both parties are operating under a non-disclosure agreement. Bryan Ricci, the owner of the Constitution, did tell Ultiworld, “The terms of the deal are that all lawsuits are dropped, the TLAs are ceased or rescinded, the names and trademarks stay with the teams…and there is compensation [from the league to the teams].”

That compensation is said to be in the range of $25,000-$50,000, enough, Ricci said, “to cover [the teams’] attorney fees.”

The league will also be able to place teams in the New York and Boston markets, the disputed territories that initially caused the lawsuit and the subsequent issues.

AUDL President Josh Moore said, “All parties involved are pleased with the outcome.”

Ricci was also relieved, calling it an “albatross off [his] shoulders.” But Constitution General Manager John Korber had a less positive reaction. “To be clear, the whole mess is hardly a win for anybody,” he said. “It took what would have otherwise been considered a wildly successful leap of faith into the realm of spectator ultimate and muddled it into an administrative and legal nightmare that didn’t do anything other than put a huge black mark across the face of the sport…We’re just glad to have it in the rearview.”

Emerson Kilgore, the Rampage’s owner, had little to say about the settlement. “With the exception of [AUDL VP of Marketing] Brent Steepe, I wish all the owners the best of luck,” he said. Kilgore has been long upset about Steepe’s involvement in the Boston franchise, where he wanted to move his team.

The Boston area is now available to the AUDL for expansion, and the new franchise in New York will join the league in 2013. New York’s owners were reportedly preparing to back out of the AUDL if the lawsuit wasn’t settled by a certain date, putting additional pressure on reaching a settlement agreement.

Whether or not the AUDL expands to Boston for the upcoming season has not been decided. “It’s a matter of whether there’s enough time to get set up adequately,” said Moore. If not this year, he said, they will have a team in Boston in 2014.

The Rampage franchise does not appear to be seeking to continue operating, but the Constitution has been actively preparing for continued on-field play. “Over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to look at all of our opportunities and decide where to go for 2013,” said Ricci. “Our players are very interested in playing.”

“There’s a lot of talented people in the Constitution organization, and I suspect that somewhere, either in the AUDL or [Major League Ultimate], those people will work hard delivering more of the product that began with the Constitution in 2012,” added Constitution General Manager John Korber.

It is extremely unlikely that the Constitution will be involved in the AUDL going forward. Heavy speculation has fallen on the question of whether or not they will join Major League Ultimate.

Ricci wouldn’t say one way or the other. He did have positive words for the MLU. “Having been in the AUDL and seeing what the MLU seems to be proposing, in general they’re both good for ultimate. I think the MLU seems to be a more player-derived organization. And I think at the end of the day it has to be player-derived as well as a business organization. And I see the MLU as being on the forefront of that.”

For now, though, all parties are just happy to be looking forward with a weight off their backs. “I wish [the AUDL] the best of luck with their venture,” said Ricci. “Their venture is different than other ventures that are going on right now. This was more about principle of the matter more than ultimate. And unfortunately ultimate got stuck in the middle of it.”

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