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Economic slump sparks Arena football shutdown
Hinesville native and Arena Football League player Will Pettis said the cancellation of the 2009 season caught him off guard. - photo by Phgoto by Patty Leon

Saying an injustice was served to the players, staff and fans of the Arena Football League, Hinesville native and former Bradwell Institute standout Will Pettis is uncertain of what the future holds for him.

Owners of the AFL announced Monday that the league would not stage a 2009 season because of economic issues. The league, which has been around for 22 years, hopes for a return in 2010.

"I feel terrible," said Pettis, a member of the Dallas Desperados and the league’s Ironman of the Year in 2007 and 2008.

"We were all kept in the dark, and I think personally the entire thing was handled poorly by the owners."

Pettis said he spoke with Desperados and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in late July, when rumors started making the rounds about the AFL’s future at the Arena Bowl in New Orleans.

"Players were saying the Desperados were not coming back," he said. "So I asked Jerry, and he assured us we would be playing."

Pettis said he didn’t think anything else about the team or season until news started circulating of a shutdown around a month ago.

Last Wednesday, the league said the 2009 season would be played. On Sunday, however, league officials and team owners voted unanimously to suspend the season, citing the economy and a desire to reorganize, saying it was the only way to ensure the league could return in 2010.

"We are all just sideswiped by these new developments," Pettis said.

Pettis said the players union and league owners are supposedly still discussing some issues, including pay.

"We don’t know if we are getting a severance package or not," Pettis said. "I have a wife and child and another baby on the way.

"There are many players that don’t have the option to wait around and see what happens, and I expect if the league does return in 2010, a lot of the faces and names that made the AFL what it is will not be returning. Personally, I don’t see myself in a position to do that, but we’ll just have to wait and see."

Pettis said he plans to finish earning his teaching certificate, and said he would love to be a coach someday. He said his faith and the support of his family will help him through this setback.




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