The Salt Lake Screaming Eagles released wide receiver Justin Brown on Monday. Brown’s release is notable because he was one of the players voted onto the team’s roster by fans during the Screaming Eagles’ training camp.
“Personally and on behalf of the entire organization, I want to thank Justin Brown for both the hard work that he put in and the tremendous professionalism he showed during his time with us.” said head coach Matthew Sauk. “We wish him the very best in his career going forward.”
The best way for a fan-run professional football team to handle personnel moves -- particularly player releases -- has been a topic of deep discussion within the organization as it seeks to balance fan input, team needs and the human element of roster moves.
“While we do our best to involve the entire Screaming Eagles fan base in as many decisions as possible,” said team president Thom Carter. “One thing that we never plan on putting up to a public vote is whether or not to release a player. It’s the toughest part of running any professional team and one that we are committed to always handling with complete class and grace. It’s just tough to reconcile that commitment with forcing a player and his family to publicly watch a process that could end in his release.”
Although the decision wasn’t put up to the full fan base, fans did get their say in Brown's release. Each week, Screaming Eagles coaches and front office personnel meet with the team’s Virtual Front Office (VFO) to discuss all aspects of team operations, including decisions on signing or releasing players.
Fans who subscribe to the VFO or those who contributed to the Indiegogo campaign get a behind-the-curtain look at all aspects of team operations. According to FANchise co-Founder and director of football operations Ray Austin, interacting with those fans is one of the most special parts of the FANchise experience.
“Those guys take their job seriously,” said Austin, referring to the team’s fan Scouts, assistant coaches and GMs. “You’ll read these detailed scouting reports that guys post on the team’s Virtual Front Office forum and hear them breaking down players on our calls. Uou can see the effort they’re putting in to helping the team.”
Austin was candided with the VFO that running a team isn’t always easy, particularly involving personnel decisions.
“I’ve been cut,” said Austin, referencing his time in professional football. “I know what that’s like. You never forget that it’s a real person you’re letting go of. But I told them that this is professional football. The players have jobs to do; Coach Sauk has a job to do; I’ve got a job to do. If they’re serious about being part of this, they’ve got jobs to do. And sometimes that means making tough calls to put a winner on the field.”