[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter 12 years of competition, the Chicago Rush of the Arena Football League are no more. Recently, AFL commissioner Jerry Kurz announced after the Arena Bowl (The AFL’s championship game) that “there will not be an arena football team operating in Chicago in 2014”.
The Rush were founded in 1998 by Chicago Bears legend and NFL Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton. Upon his death in 1999, he left the franchise to his business partners.
The Rush took the field for the first time in 2001 and they were an instant hit with fans. In 2004, Mike Ditka was brought in as a minority owner to oversee all football operations. After the 2008 season, Ditka sold his share of the team.
The 2009 season got cancelled due to the economic collapse at the end of 2008. When the league resumed play in 2010, the Rush were under new ownership. The league took over the day-to-day operations and ran the team until the end of the 2012 season. In December of 2012, Chicago area businesswoman Julee White purchased the team for an undisclosed amount.
Crain’s Chicago Business reported that White did not have the funds to operate the team and Rush staff members had not been paid.
One month later, David Staral bought the team and saved the 2013 season, which began in March. Then in May, the Chicago Sun-Times revealed that Staral was a convicted felon who was currently on probation for white-collar crimes.
This came on the heels of Rush home games on May 4 and 19 in which there were many issues. The jumbotron at Allstate Arena was not functioning, there was no camera crew and the internet was not available to the media.
Another Sun-Times report revealed that checks from Staral to both the Village of Rosemont (owners of the arena) and the production company in charge of video for the Rush had bounced. From there they were forced out of the only building that they’ve ever called home. The AFL once again ran the team.
After the Rush were eliminated from playoff contention earlier this month, the AFL decided to fold the team rather than keep footing the bill to keep it going. Since then, all Rush employees have been relieved of their duties. Their championship banners have also been taken down from the Allstate Arena rafters.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this article inaccurately stated that the Securities and Exchange Commission terminated Julee White’s ownership of the Chicago Rush in January of 2013.