You may have heard by now, but Major League Lacrosse recently announced three major changes to its league. First and foremost, the MLL is increasing the salary cap by 51%, effective immediately. Meaning, teams now have more freedom to sign players to longer, larger contracts.
The second announcement was that each team will now play 16 games instead of the traditional 14. In years past, teams would not be able to play each and every team both home and away. This addition of two more games to the schedule will almost surely end that.
Finally, the league announced that Game Day Active Rosters will be expanded by one player per team. Just like how it sounds, each team will be allowed to dress one more player per game. In the article featured above, the MLL states that this will “allow for better in-game strategy and provide teams with more depth of talent.”
Now, you may be thinking, “it’s about time the MLL started paying their players more,” or “oh, cool, more games!” In a perfect world, I would echo your praises of the league (and team owners), and commend them for supporting their players for no other reason than it being the right thing to do. However, I do not believe the league is doing this strictly based on generosity or merit; I believe it has made these changes because it sees a major threat to its business on the horizon.
That threat comes in the form of the world’s best lacrosse player and the MLL’s shining star: Paul Rabil.
Rabil has been the posterboy for Major League Lacrosse ever since he was drafted out of Johns Hopkins. He’s won titles with two different franchises and is a perfect example of building your fame by marketing yourself to a broader audience. However, it appears that he is part of the rapidly expanding group of players that does not feel the league treats them with the respect they have earned.
Just this past year, we saw examples of players speaking out against the conditions they’re forced to endure to be a part of this league. Ryan Flanagan, D-Pole for the Lizards, sent this tweet after his team’s victory in Florida:
As a result of this tweet, he was fined an entire game check and later expressed, also on Twitter, how disappointed he was in the league’s decision. Flanagan’s experience is a microcosm for a greater issue in the MLL: overall player happiness. Players are starting to not feel valued or respected and certain league decisions have highlighted those emotions.
It is for this reason that Rabil is reportedly taking action and attempting to take power out of the league’s hands by forming his own professional lacrosse league. Yes, you read that correctly. The MLL’s biggest and brightest star is looking to form another professional lacrosse league, completely separate from the MLL. It will be called Premier League Lacrosse (PLL).
Circling back to the MLL’s most recent announcements, it’s easy to determine that Rabil’s new league has everything to do with the decisions. The Major League Lacrosse owners see this viable threat that has presented itself and it’s causing them to dig deeper in their pockets in an effort to maintain their most talented players.
Commissioner of the MLL, Sandy Brown, released a statement on the new changes that I found to be quite interesting. He said, “MLL maintains the absolute best players in the game of lacrosse, period. Our owners’ investment and endorsement will ensure that the competition in our league will continue to be the pinnacle of our sport.”
Tell me that’s not a subliminal shot across the bow to anyone trying to create a competing professional lacrosse league. You can try, but I won’t have it. Based on the tone of that statement, Brown very might as well have been throwing darts at a picture of Paul Rabil’s face as he said it.
Now, to shift focus to Rabil’s league. I’m told by a current MLL player, who wishes to remain anonymous, that the PLL will really do some damage to Major League Lacrosse. He stated that, so far, it has been a majority of the veterans who have started signing on with the new league, and the younger players have gravitated toward the long-term deals now being offered in the MLL.
You can assume this is the case because veterans have been in the league for a while and are tired of being knocked around by owners. The curious aspect of all of this will be to see which MLL stars decide to join Rabil in his new league, which, I’m told, will consist of six teams that are not tied to particular cities.
I’m also intrigued to see what the logistics of this new league will be, and how many games/how often they will play. We know constant travel is a burden for players in the MLL, so will Rabil address this and allow guys to play for teams in areas they’re located near? All of that remains to be seen, but my source did express, “all I know is if the (insert team he plays for) don’t offer me more money, I’m signing with Rabil.”
From here it’s a wait-and-see game. Right now, all we can do is chuckle at the irony of the MLL’s biggest star potentially being its downfall. Getchya’ popcorn ready.