Jacksonville Cannons Defend Dangerous Bid, Take Heavy Criticism On Social Media

The play in question.
A photograph of the play in question. Photo: Judy Stapleton.

In last weekend’s final AUDL regular season game between the Jacksonville Cannons and the Atlanta Hustle, Jacksonville’s Andrew Carleton got ejected from the game1 for this bid into Atlanta’s Sean Sears (who was concussed on the play):

Andrew Carleton Ejection

Yesterday, Bama Secs tweeted about the play, which brought it to the attention of the wider ultimate world:

Bama Secs Tweet

Four minutes later, the Jacksonville Cannons responded, setting off a firestorm on Twitter, Reddit, and other social media sites:

Cannons Tweet

Aside from being simply untrue (Sears clearly reached the disc first), the Cannons account seems to suggest that the play would be justified even if Carleton had reached the disc first. Under the AUDL rulebook, that is patently false: creating unavoidable heavy contact with an opponent is a foul. And if there is “immediate danger to the players involved,” it is a 20 yard penalty and a possible ejection.

The Cannons later retracted the claim that Carleton reached the disc first, but then issued an official statement on Facebook that seemed to again suggest that the play was clean, or at least justifiable. Here is the full text of the team’s statement:

The Jacksonville Cannons hold the safety of all participants, including but not limited to fans, staff, officials and players, as our number one priority.

All players are responsible for maintaining a safe disposition at all times.

During game play, when the disc is in the air, all players on the field have a right to possession.

The motion each player made was not unnatural to the play at hand. Both held their heads up, tracking the disc, eventually extending the closest arm to make a play on the disc. Both players made a direct line for the disc at all times and never at all attempted to create contact with the opposing player. There is no doubt contact occurred. It is clear that the contact is unintentional, as both players continue a direct line for the disc. The impact itself did not have any secondary emphasis to it, confirming neither player was intending to deliver a punishing blow of any sort.

It is unfortunate that unintentional contact occurred.

Cannons #99 Andrew Carleton made a play on the disc and it was considered worthy of an ejection by the referee. While we disagree that the play was worthy of ejection, feeling he made a play on a free disc, we accept the call and consider it a closed matter.

Reaction from ultimate players and fans has been almost entirely negative. Here’s a sampling of Twitter responses:

The story “Jax Responses” on Storify cannot be loaded. Storify and Storify embeds will no longer be available after May 16, 2018.

Suggestions that Jacksonville has a culture of bad on-field behavior seem justified by anecdotal evidence. Many AUDL South Division teams have complained about the Cannons’ play this season and the team has been called for numerous flagrant fouls.

“The league reviewed the play and we agreed with the referee’s decision to eject the player,” said the AUDL Director of Marketing Tim DeByl. “At the league level we capture video of every game, and will review instances of dangerous plays brought to our attention from players/coaches and even fans. We also track all ejections throughout the season. The league can suspend players or fine teams when it feels it is necessary.”

No fines or suspensions have been levied for Carleton’s bid. The only suspension this season was handed down to Jacksonville’s coach, Tuba Benson-Jaja. He made contact with a referee after last season’s playoff loss and was suspended for the season opener this year. Last year, a Nashville Nightwatch player was suspended for making an intentional dangerous bid.

After a request from Ultiworld, the AUDL declined to share the flagrant foul and ejection totals for the 2016 season.

Many online, including Dallas Roughnecks owner and Philadelphia Phoenix minority stakeholder Jim Gerencser, have called for fines or further sanctions on the team.

UPDATE (7/13): Jacksonville released another statement on their Facebook page this afternoon. Here is the full text:

Earlier today, we came out with a statement explaining our view of a play that occurred in our game against Atlanta this past weekend. From our understanding of the rules, we believed it was a legal play. Since, we’ve had discussions with AUDL Commissioner, Steve Gordon, and came away with a clearer understanding of the rules. As a result, we understand and accept the ruling on the field.

As we stated this morning, the Cannons hold the safety of everyone, especially the players, as of paramount importance and will continue to work with the league to ensure their safety.

  1. Dusty Smith was the referee that ejected Carleton. 

  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

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

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