Ebersol Emailed AAF Employees Saying "Don't Gloat"

The AAF had a highly successful opening weekend, but CEO and Co-Founder Charlie Ebersol is focused on making the product even better

The DA Show
February 14, 2019 - 12:59 pm

USA Today Images

The AAF debuted this past weekend, and a funny thing happened: people liked it.

In fact, they loved it.

This is not common among debuts. With debuts, unexpected things can occur. Things can go from good to bad to worse in a hurry.

The AAF, however, didn’t experience that. Instead, the reaction to the new football league was overwhelmingly positive.

“I was shocked,” AAF CEO and Co-Founder Charlie Ebersol said on The DA Show. “In fact, I do an all-company video address (on Fridays) where we talk to everyone – because we’re now over 1,000 employees. And I said, ‘Look, we’ve got to be professional. We’ve got to do our job. But we are going to wake up on Monday morning, and people are going to gripe. They’re going to say the ratings are bad, and the football (wasn’t good). Blah, blah, blah. You got to keep your chin up.’”

Well, after a successful weekend, Ebersol wanted employees to perhaps keep their chins not as high.

“I had to send an email on Sunday night that said, ‘Don’t gloat,’” Ebersol said, laughing. “‘You guys need to be careful because we have to live on both sides.’ Ultimately, here’s the thing about this: the media and the public perception is fickle. My friend, who is one of the top executives at Twitter, called me and said, ‘We have rarely, if ever, seen this level of positivity. You’re 11 of the top 20 trending topics on Twitter, and all 11 are positive.’ He said, ‘Be careful because this will turn.’

“And I know that’s coming,” Ebersol continued. “I am conscious enough and have been through both sides of this to know that popularity is a fickle mistress. But the thing I will say is what I am encouraged by is the positivity about the quality of the product – and I have always believed that if you put forward a quality product, nothing else matters. And so, our focus will remain quality football. Everything else is just noise right now until we have established ourselves as a quality football platform.”

Impressively, all 32 NFL teams sent scouts to AAF games last weekend – and they’re doing the same thing this weekend.

“That type of relationship, that supporting ecosystem of football, that is ultimately the essential goal,” Ebersol said. “The NFL doesn’t need to be replaced. It doesn’t need to be adopted or changed. But what it needs is support to help these tens of thousands of players that don’t have places to play to be able to play and refine the game and make the game better – and we believe that we have at least had one week of showing that we’re capable of being that for people.”

While there may be hiccups along the way, there will also be improvements. Ebersol, 36, certainly isn’t resting on his laurels.

“No, are you kidding? I’m a perfectionist,” he said. “My team got about an hour to celebrate the success of the league, and then they got about 15 pages of notes. My primary concern always is that you get complacent. This is a game – I don’t mean the game of football; I mean the entertainment business – is a game of what have you done for me lately? And so, a lot of what we focused on were what were the shortcomings?

“We were thrilled that people liked use of the sky judge and the use of the replay official being on camera,” he continued, “but at the same time obviously there were mic-ing issues where curse words got through. So we’re always looking at how we can improve the product. I think the football did a nice job of improving itself over the course of the games. We’re happy with where the football started, but that’s not where we want to be. We want to be much better than that.”