October 20, 2011
The Lingerie Football League's expansion north of the border is in crisis at the moment, with 22 of the 26 Toronto Triumph players quitting the team this week after just one game (seen above). The players left over coaching controversies and safety concerns, hardly new for this league, but what was particularly notable was the way league founder and commissioner Mitchell S. Mortaza (whose record includes arrests for drunk driving and public intoxication, as well as questionable appearances on Blind Date) reacted to the concerns of the players (some of whom are seen at right), which you can see in full below. (Players' names have been removed at their request.)
It all started with the dismissal of Toronto assistant coach Sebastian Clovis, a former CFL player and the Triumph coach with the most high-level experience. That prompted a players' meeting, and following that meeting, a Triumph player sent Mortaza the following e-mail:
It is no secret that there is unrest within the Toronto Triumph team. I ensure you that I am writing this email on behalf of all the Triumph players. At our first team meeting with you back in July, you said that we could come to you with any issues or problems we had. Right now our Triumph family is dealing with a very big problem that we hope you can help us with.
With our second game just around the corner we are concerned that all of the tension and stress lurking may negatively affect our forward progress.
We arrived to our practice this evening to the shocking news that Sebastian Clovis was asked to resign. As a result, our scheduled practice turned into an hour of players voicing their concerns about the lack of leadership and cohesion within the coaching staff. We feel that Sebastian has the experience, the know-how, the vision, and the professionalism to lead our football team. More importantly, Sebastian brings an infectious energy to every practice.
We respect all coaches and appreciate the time and effort that they have all put in trying to make this franchise a success. However, the players believe that we would benefit strongly from moving forward with Sebastian leading all practices. In order for the Triumph to be a successful Canadian franchise we need a coach with Sebastian's experience and knowledge. Our team's credibility would be increased with the presence of a former professional football player. It's evident that the league supports this idea as the majority of the other LFL teams are currently lead by coaches with NFL experience. With Sebastian coaching, we feel confident that we can win, generate hype about the LFL in Canada, and most importantly fill the arena with excited fans.
In reading the latest LFL news on the Minnesota Valkyrie's coaching changes, would it be possible for the Triumph to undergo similar shifts to improve our game?
If you would like to talk about this further, I would love to speak with you at your earliest convenience. Basically,we as a team want to play football at the highest level possible, want to learn, improve and win games. In order to do so, we need to resolve our inner issues as soon as possible so that we can focus solely on football. I am confident that our team can overcome this obstacle and we will prevail stronger, more connected and ready to take down our opponents.
A polite enough e-mail that most league executives would respond to in kind, no? Well, Mitch Mortaza is not your typical league executive (and he could also use some spelling and grammar lessons). Here's the unedited response he sent last week (forwarded by a Triumph player), which insulted the team's players and their commitment and said that many of them were to be replaced at a tryout (set to take place Thursday).
With all due respect, we will take under advisement your feedback but the decision about former Asst Coach Sebastian Clovis is final and is as a result of the coaching staff's collectively decision.
We at the league do not make personnel decisions, we simply advise our coaching staffs.
Our concern with this team runs much deeper than an assistant coach, we are readying for a major change in culture as this franchise is entirely too important to risk with certain players that do no understand the importance of practicing, respect toward coaching etc.
We are hosting an open tryout shortly (next week) to bring in new blood and excitement and frankly players that are more dedicated and take pride in wearing the Triumph colors. This is certainly not a blanket statement toward all current players as there are individuals who are dedicated to this team and its success, however the mentality from coaching to playing needs a significant shift.
We will discuss further on our team-wide call on Monday night.
I do appreciate your reaching out to my office and I will always be here for you and each of our Triumph ladies.
Mitchell S. Mortaza
Founder & Chairman
Lingerie Football League, LLC.
Things escalated from there. Here's the response of a third player to Mortaza's e-mail:
I remember the first time I saw the clipping of the LFL in my office and I thought...chicks playing tackle football.....in lingerie......awesome! I must admit I thought it was a joke until I went home and watched a clip of the ladies play. I remember thinking wow—I gotta try out for this, these girls are for real.
On the first day of practice I was late and Heather let me in—I promised her I wouldn't let her down and that I would make the team. I hung onto to every word each guy, including you, said there and loved every minute. I loved how you made the silly girls with way too much make-up run laps and I thought to myself, alright, this guy is for real. You would yell "we're here to play f*cking football!' and I loved every minute. I made the team and, along with my team mates, have spent the last months promoting the league like crazy. We have literally lived and breathed this.
For the past 7 months I have never looked back, soaking up every word my coaches have told me, learning everything I could as I had never played football before. As a high-level athlete I assure you I have the utmost respect for any coaching staff and always have, provided the team comes first. Somewhere along the journey I saw(we saw) a problem.
I have only missed 3 practices. Two were because I was riding 600km to raise money for men, woman and children with AIDS and the other was a death in the family. I have made such a commitment to this team that I have moved patients around to make practices. The rest of the girls have done the same. You know this, Mitch. We have people who play this game who are moms, teachers, students, doctors, servers and somehow we all make it work. We have a few players who fight rush hour each time for 2-3 hours just to play for this team. There is no lack of commitment and I personally am really offended by the comment about a 'lack of commitment to practices.' Please, no offense, but where are you getting your information from? I don't remember being asked and if we all truly had a problem with someone not coming to practice or a lack of commitment we would have told you ourselves. I have seen no lack of commitment on this part. Funny, I have actually noticed certain coaching staff missing from practice more often...
You speak of a team that 'is committed to one common goal, preparation for greatness.' I couldn't agree more, Mitch. I played volleyball at the rep level, rugby and bball at the varsity level, javelin at the national level and received my pro card for body building. Trust me, I know how to win and what it takes. You want to make a change in our culture and I couldn't agree more. In its current state it is toxic. Rationally please think this through though. You want a winning team and a packed Ricoh—so do we! The entire team has been tirelessly promoting this team. You also know that a team's success starts with the top of the food chain-the coaches. We don't need new blood Mitch! That is not how you create a shift in culture. If it is one bad seed, then yes—that is most certainly the answer. It is not the answer when 26 girls stand united saying the same thing. If you really want a shift in culture and some new blood please consider taking our opinion as to who is the bad blood to begin with.
There are many reasons why we didn't do very well in our first game but I can assure you it was not for a lack of practicing. We actually outscored Tampa in the second half. Now, I'm no expert, but if that is any indication of how fast we learn, then I am pretty excited about what this team can do moving forward.
Mitch, we are not making any demands, only a simple solution that is united. This isn't just one irate player voicing an issue with not liking a coach, which I agree is solved by getting rid of her/him. This is one entire team of 26 girls who feel the same way. Please explain to me why the only coach with real, professional football experience got let go and the the incredibly enthusiastic basketball coach and the true poison of the team were kept because I just can't make sense of it. Asking for you to consider keeping the one coach that could help us bring a winning team to your franchise doesn't seem like drama to me sir-we just want to play football at the highest level and win.
I can honestly say this is the most fun I have had on any team in my whole life and I would do anything for the girls on this team. I am crushed at the thought of what is being discussed tonight and what has happened. Please, please consider our comments before finalizing anything.
And Mortaza's response to that:
Your focus should be on football not creating distractions for your team. If you truly care so much, why are so many players showing up late or not showing up at all to practices?
You need leaders and individuals that are committed to winning, right now, this has become a passive commitment to a lot of you. Some of your roster is more in love with the concept of playing on this team and the celebrity that comes with it, versus truly diving into becoming a football player and a football team. Some of that has absolutely been a result of ineffective coaching and leadership.
Lack of commitment to practices is not how we have built the LFL into the most successful women's sport in the States in a very short period of time, shortly to make a significant impact in Canada.
We will be hosting an open tryout next week and with the new visibility of LFL Football throughout Ontario, we expect to draw great new talent alongside any existing players — the new focus will be a team that is committed to one common goal, preparation for greatness.
The first step has been taken toward changing the current culture, you can chose to come along or not. You are no position to be making demands of my office or making ridiculous statements such as 'We are not going to let Seb go'.
As I said previously, we have a conference call scheduled on Monday night for those who wish to remain on the roster and continue their LFL experience.
If your not on the call, we wish you the best and thank you for what you have committed to the team to date.
Classy words from a classy man. With leadership like that, the LFL's certainly going places. It's no wonder so many of the Toronto players decided to quit, including team captain Krista Ford (seen at right above). The real question is if Mortaza will able to find enough willing women to replace them and risk injury, verbal abuse and ogling for no pay, or if people are finally realizing the ugly truth about his league?