July 12, 2024

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West Texas Desert Hawks officially cease operations, owner steps down and slams previous management; ‘a scam to begin with’

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For article clarity, references about the league does not involve current owners G6 Sports unless otherwise noted

ODESSA, TX — In what’s likely the final message to fans, the West Texas Desert Hawks owner spoke out about the future of the team and sharply criticized the previous league ownership.

The Desert Hawks, who entered its first season in the Arena Football League, ceased operations on June 19 which was later confirmed by owner Zack Bugg during a livestream on Facebook Friday evening.

Bugg said the decision was largely fueled because of false promises allegedly made by former commissioner Lee Hutton III and Arena Football Management, LLC (AFLM).

“It became a very complex situation and I had to wait until I had a definitive answer,” Bugg said. “It’s a tough and corrupt situation and a scam deal for the simple fact that I’m going to keep digging into more of it. Everybody was promised a lot of things and Lee didn’t fulfill that end of the bargain.”

The Desert Hawks and the other 15 original teams supposedly made different deals under Hutton regarding funding. According to Bugg, the most favorable promise was player salary that was expected to be covered by the league.

Bugg said he paid one-million dollars to buy into the league. He alleges management agreed to pay $1,000 to each player every week – which would equate to about $210,000 over 10 weeks in the regular season.

“This goes to show that it was a scam to begin with and I honored that and every player knows that,” Bugg said. “Straight dishonesty all around. [AFLM] promised us player apparel, travel, salaries and all of this big dream of what they’re supposed to do if we paid this money.”

Prior to the first game of the season, the National Arena League sued the West Texas Desert Hawks in Georgia, for breaking its contract by leaving to join the AFL. The NAL were granted an injunction to prevent the team from competing, but the order was shortly tossed out after the Desert Hawks settled on an undisclosed amount of money.

Bugg claimed the injunction was never supposed to happen and Hutton was expected to pay the NAL before it went to court.

“If any money had to be paid [to the NAL] Lee Hutton was supposed to take the percentage of the money I already paid into the [AFL] and give it to the NAL so the injunction wouldn’t take place,” Bugg said. “It put me in a financial situation where I had to pay an [undisclosed] amount of dollars for this entire situation just so our football team, coaches and West Texas could see us play.”

The initial attempt at the preliminary injunction was unsuccessful, which gave the Desert Hawks the greenlight to play against the defunct Georgia Force in the first game of the season. The matchup was slated to be televised on NFL Network but never broadcasted.

Bugg said he paid for the Force’s entire travel expenses to West Texas in good faith to ensure there would be a game. The Force were owned by the league and all of the team’s games were scheduled to be on the road.

“Come to find out, we had to pay the NFL Network just to have a game,” Bugg said. “I forked over money so we could have the NFL Network on April 28 and they took that money and ran with it. I paid to have that game broadcasted and it still didn’t happen.”

On May 14, remaining team owners unanimously appointed Jeff Fisher as interim commissioner. Bugg believes if it wasn’t for Fisher and the Nashville Kats’ ownership group, the league would have suspended operations for the remainder of the season.

Bugg said he has respect for some of the individuals of G6 Sports – the current owner of the Arena Football League. However, he disagrees with the group’s current direction specifically when it comes to the upcoming playoffs and the Arena Bowl.

“There are media deals in place and they are paying money for the Arena Bowl instead of giving the money back to the owners that have suffered,” Bugg said. “All of us have suffered this entire time, but they would rather put those dollars in media deals to make themselves look good so they can potentially have the AFL next year. Honestly I don’t stand for that.”

During the stream, Bugg sounded the alarm on the future of the AFL. He shared that some owners have made decisions to save money this season and hinted that many might not return next year.

“Teams will not be part of the AFL next year if it continues the route it’s going.”

Bugg noted he will step down as owner of the Desert Hawks. He is also not confident there will be another party willing to take charge of the franchise, which could ultimately mean the end of arena football in West Texas.

“The arena football world is too hostile and crazy for me and financially it doesn’t make sense anymore,” Bugg said. “We had a lot of backing and sponsors that dedicated money into this season… This market has been burned many times. It’s very tough and at this time, I don’t see it.”

Billings Outlaws owner Steven Titus, who has also been outspoken against Hutton, shared his support in the comments.

“Zack Bugg is my hero. Amazing person, great businessperson, loyal family man and amazing friend. Love ya man.” Titus said.

Bugg ended the stream thanking the fans for their support during the season.

“I want to thank the community of West Texas and everybody that’s been part of this entire ordeal. The ownership groups I dealt with, the friends I’ve made in the football world good or bad and the front office. I really thank and love each and everyone of you.”

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