On MLU and USAU

I was pretty disappointed to see Major League Ultimate’s Jeff Snader and Nic Darling take the approach they did to criticizing USA Ultimate. I was preparing to get up this morning and write a fact check article, but instead found an excellent one sitting in my inbox — go read it.

The problem with the MLU’s critique is that so much of it was wrong or specious that it overshadowed what are some legitimate issues with USA Ultimate’s approach to the semi-pro leagues.

I am on record saying that the hostile approach USA Ultimate has taken towards Major League Ultimate and the American Ultimate Disc League is not only a bad decision, but may in fact go against the mission of a players’ association. I think it — at a minimum — deserves some discussion. Should USAU be blocking MLU from sponsoring jerseys? Should they be hosting a major tournament on the same day as the MLU’s Championship game (when players in both leagues might be impacted)?

Those are tough questions — insinuating that USA Ultimate CEO Tom Crawford is overpaid is not.

Isaac Saul, a Pitt College Champion and a newly minted member of the MLU’s New York Rumble, had this to say in the comments of the MLU criticism news piece:

[quote]Let me start by saying I’m a big proponent of the USAU and also an MLU rookie. I think both organizations have done and are doing a lot of great things for our sport. It is important that they continue to push each other as competitors, but — as has been noted here — it would be a lot more helpful if they reached across the table.

That being said, I think there are a few things nobody is really discussing in the comments here:

1) these ‘inflammatory’ comments from Snader come not long after USAU made what I can only assume was a calculated move to hurt the MLU by lining up Chesapeake with the championship weekend. I know that assumptions make asses out of me and you, but I simply can’t wrap my head around a tournament that has been held in August for as long as I can remember suddenly being moved to July, the same weekend as the MLU championship. Even if it wasn’t malicious, the USAU should have prioritized the fact that THEIR PLAYERS and THEIR MEMBERS have commitments to other teams (i.e. Rumble, Whitecaps, Current, etc, etc,) and scheduling the tournament that weekend would be a huge problem for all of them. It is on par with setting up Chesapeake the same weekend as Wildwood or another popular non-club affiliated event, something history would say they’d never do.

2) As a reasonably well-connected member of the Ultimate community, everything I’ve heard ‘off the record’ and everything I’ve seen in the public eye has indicated that USAU has — in several ways — put a cold shoulder to the MLU a la Brodie Smith or AUDL or any of the other outlets for Ultimate that have garnered major attention. It is unfortunate that there is [seemingly] only one brand of the sport acceptable to the members of the organization I pay to be a part of, and I hope that they become less stringent in their monopoly on the sport on the future.

Finally, I’d like to give everyone a reminder that this is still OUR sport. All the commissioners and GMs and board members and podcasts don’t change that. We don’t have to sit here and point fingers or gape or write lengthy posts like this. We have the unique privilege and opportunity to become a part of the act. If you don’t like something, get involved and make a change. If you love something, promote it. I dream of a world where talented, passionate and high character athletes can go from HS Ultimate, to a high level college program, to (a single) pro league, to a satisfying club season with a team of their best friends. I think that is still in our future and still something attainable for everyone (there are certainly enough months in the year and weekends open to make it happen). I hope to see both of these organizations (and the AUDL, and WFDF) combine their forces, their passion and their resources sometime in the near future. We’d be a formidable force if they did.[/quote]

I think that Isaac’s sentiment here is probably shared by many. But Major League Ultimate does themselves a HUGE disservice with their podcast — a scorched earth approach that, to me, is unbecoming of a professional organization. Not only that, but their analysis is riddled with flaws.

And how does this further their goal of working with USA Ultimate? This is not the mark of two leagues trying to work together; this, just like USA Ultimate’s slights on MLU, rings like an attempt to win loyalty away from the “opposition.”

It’s really a shame, because the ideas Saul expressed above sure make a lot of sense. There is just no reason for this bickering, when, in so many ways, the goals of all of these leagues are aligned.

  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

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

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