GREENSBORO — When the Carolina Cobras indoor football team entered their locker room at halftime of a road game last month against the New York Streets, the players discovered they had been robbed.
And if that wasn't enough, they got penalized for refusing to finish that National Arena League game.
While Carolina was building a 46-0 lead, a ring and an estimated $2,000 was taken from their lockers at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, N.Y., on July 21.
“It’s not something I have ever encountered in my entire football career, going back to middle school,” said Cobras offensive lineman Chad Kolumber. “It’s not something you think about. You go in the locker room, get ready for the game and leave your stuff.”
Cobras coach Billy Back made the decision not to return to the field for the second half.
“Our guys were mad,” he said. “Some of them lost more than they were making. They were not in the right mindset to play. I was afraid if someone started trash-talking our guys or said the wrong thing, there could be a fight and suspensions.
“I stand by my decision 110 percent.”
Before he made his decision, Back said, he insisted authorities look at security camera footage.
The Rockland/Westchester News reported that police have charged Aniyah Booker, 18, a Streets game-day production employee from Hamden, Conn., with two counts of petty larceny. A total of $1,000 in cash was stolen from a bag belonging to a Streets dance team member on July 5. Booker was arrested July 25 and is scheduled to appear in court Thursday.
The 46-0 lead turned into a 2-0 forfeit loss, the team was fined an unspecified amount, and Back was suspended for the Cobras' game at Columbus, a 46-34 loss, on July 27. The Streets were also fined.
“We owe it to our fans to play a complete game, and we owe it to our teams to provide adequate security,” said National Arena League commissioner Chris Siegfried in a statement. “Therefore, we have decided to level fines to both the New York Streets and the Carolina Cobras, as well as to Carolina Coach Billy Back, for their roles in the events of Sunday night.
“The visiting Carolina Cobras are fined for conduct detrimental to the best interests of the league – for not finishing the game. Carolina Head Coach Billy Back has been suspended one game – tomorrow night’s game vs. the Columbus Lions – for his role Sunday evening. While coach Back’s intentions may have been to protect his players and the league, he understands now that his decision had an adverse effect on the NAL.”
Siegfried has declined to address questions, by phone or by email, from the News & Record, including why the arena and the league failed to provide security for the players' belongings in their work environment and how such an incident reflected on the integrity of the league.