Forward Dale Mitchell has filed a grievance with the Major Soccer League Players Association charging the Kansas City Comets with fraud and asking to be made a free agent.
The suit stems from the August trade that sent Mitchell to Baltimore for Blast midfielder Carl Valentine. At the time of the trade, Mitchell would not say he would come to Baltimore. He said instead, he would check all his options, that he was very unhappy, and that Kansas City had made "a lot of promises they evidently had no intention of keeping."
MSLPA director John Kerr said the grievance will be heard Tuesday in Washington by arbitrator George Nicolau, the same man who decided the collusion issue in pro baseball. The hearing will be attended by Mitchell, his attorney Tim English, Kansas City owner Chris Clousier and MSL commissioner Earl Foreman.
The Blast also will be represented, as an interested party, but neither Blast owner Ed Hale nor coach Kenny Cooper will attend.
Foreman said he could not comment on the merits of the matter, but did say, "I'm quite surprised by the accusations."
Kerr said the grievance, filed Sept. 5, backs up Mitchell's earlier stand.
"The charge is that Kansas City fraudulently induced Dale to sign and then traded him," said Kerr. "He charges they made promises above the actual contract, knowing they could not be put in writing, knowing no other team would have a responsibility to abide by a verbal agreement."
Kansas City had 10 days to respond to the grievance in writing, and did. But Clousier could not be reached for comment yesterday and Comets coach Dave Clements was "unavailable for comment."
Hale said he had only learned of the grievance yesterday, and Cooper said that despite several conversations with Mitchell, the forward had not told him of the proceedings.
"We learned of it through the proper channels," Cooper said. "This is something between Dale and Kansas City. The Blast is not involved, but we will watch it closely. As far as we're concerned, Dale is a member of the Blast. All the paperwork on that trade has been completed and he has received a paycheck from us."
Mitchell did not return phone calls last night.
Cooper said he would not reveal confidences, but did say Mitchell had mentioned several times that there are a number of issues that are very important to him.
"Dale has never said he does not want to play for the Blast," Cooper said. "And as far as I'm concerned, I'm expecting him to be here and help us earn a championship."
Kerr said he did not know exactly what would happen if the ruling goes in favor of Mitchell, but said he assumes the Blast would ask the trade to be voided. He also said Mitchell, as a free agent, probably would be allowed to re-sign with the Blast if he wanted to.
"We would ask to null and void the trade and get Carl back," said Hale. "It's the natural thing to do."
Hale said he had no idea there was anything above and beyond Mitchell's written contract.
"He's already paid the maximum under the salary cap," Hale said, referring to the $72,000 allowable. "If Kansas City made him any promises above that, it breaks the league rules. I'm not naive, but we [the Blast] have acted honorably."
Hale also said he would attempt to re-sign Mitchell if need be.