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Expedition League sues Independence League defectors, seeks damages

Expedition LeagueThe summer-collegiate Expedition League, based in the Upper Midwest and Upper Rockies, is suing seven defectors who broke away in late October to form a competing league, the Independence League.

As you’ll recall, in late October seven teams left the Expedition League to form a new summer-collegiate circuit, the Independence League. The seven teams: Badlands Big Sticks (Dickinson, ND), Canyon County Spuds (Caldwell, ID), Casper Horseheads (Casper, WY), Fremont Moo (Fremont, NE), Hastings Sodbusters (Hastings, NE), Spearfish Sasquatch (Spearfish, SD) & Western Nebraska Pioneers (Gering, NE). Five Expedition League teams, all owned or co-owned and operated by league founders Steve Wagner (league president) and Connie Wagner, remained in the circuit. There was a little drama during the end of the 2021 season in Butte involved the Wagner-owned Mining City Tommyknockers, with the league lineup now at four teams for 2022. Here’s our story. Since then both leagues have expanded: the Expedition League to Laramie, WY, and the Expedition League to Grand Forks, ND.

In response to the defections, the Expedition League filed suit in Pennington County Court, located in Rapid City, D.C, arguing that the teams departed because of unpaid league dues, set to use marks controlled by the Expedition League, and play under in violation of the league Affiliate Agreements. Being sued are both the LLCs owning the Expedition League defectors as well as the owners of the LLC. You can read the full complaint here, but here’s the gist: the Expedition League is seeking payment of affiliate payments and membership funds past due, a court order block the teams from playing this season, and in some cases calling for the dissolution of the LLCs owning the affiliates. (And, of course, attorney fees.) In a few cases the Expedition League has a minority interest in a defecting team, such as the league claiming to control a 31.25 percent interest in the Western Nebraska Pioneers and Casper Horseheads–an ownership interest wiped out when the teams were allegedly transferred to a new LLC.

It is not uncommon for indy and summer-collegiate leagues to have affiliate agreements containing clauses preventing teams from defecting to a new circuit. It’s certainly not uncommon for a league to retain an interest in a mark. And though it’s not the case here, it’s not unusual for a league to be party to a ballpark lease.

RELATED STORIES: Seven teams leave Expedition League, form new Independence League

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