As soon as next week the Orlando Apollos will be adding some extra windshield time to their commute as they will start practicing in Georgia due to Florida’s workers compensation laws.
That is because Florida does not classify professional sports athletes as employees, and as a result they cannot file an injury claim if they are hurt on the job in Florida. This stems from altering the Florida law in 2011 under Florida House Bill 723.
As odd as this loophole sounds, the Apollos organization has been placed in an odd predicament as they have been unable to find a Florida insurance carrier willing to cover the team. As a result it leaves the team no choice, but to spend majority of their time out-of-state. AAF co-founder and CEO Charlie Ebersol explained to the Orlando Sentinel why the team decided to make the move now,
“We really need to make sure we take the necessary steps to take care of our players. Our responsibility is always to do what we must do to make sure our players have the best available coverage.
Being a startup developmental league, the Alliance is at a disadvantage on all the usual fronts, and health insurance is no exception. The Alliance’s Head of Player Operations David Cohen also explained,
“The insurance market covering both professional football and startup companies is limited. Established sports organizations have long-standing relationships with carriers. We are continuing to aggressively pursue workers compensation coverage that allows our Orlando team to be Florida employees and practice in Florida the entire season.”
Good on the Alliance officials and the team for making the right call. Now one might question why they did not elect to practice out-of-state from the start? As obviously this has been a concern from the beginning and knew they would balancing the risk and well-being of their players as they attempted to navigate the Florida pivotal laws. At the moment it seems like just another sign of growing pains for this young team and league.
Starting in March the team will be temporarily be housed in a hotel in Jacksonville and will travel 30 minutes across state lines to practice at a Kingsland, Georgia high school. With this move they will be then able to find a Georgia insurance carrier to cover any future Apollos player injury. Despite them practicing in Georgia, the Apollos will still play their home games in Orlando at Spectrum Stadium.
Hindsight is always 20/20, and if you took at the updated state law it is head spinning to say the least. Hopefully in the future the state legislature and governor will do right not just by the Apollos, but by all Florida professional athletes to include them officially as employee’s of their respective employer.