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Team and League History.


April 30, 2008
     Americas Basketball International logo
At a press conference at Boutwell Municipal Auditorium, it was announced that Birmingham would be a part of the new Americas Basketball International. FIBA AMERICAS Basketball president, Julio Subero, was on hand at the press conference to make the announcements.

The local team will be known as the Birmingham Wolfpack.

Subero formally announced the Americas Basketball International, a new league that is expected to eventually become world-wide. Players are expected to compete at the same level as other professional franchises.

Subero also introduced Anthony Toney as the ABI's commissioner. Toney is a native and current resident of Birmingham.

Toney explained the vision, mission, and purpose of the newly established organization. He also discussed how the league could positively impact Birmingham and other major cities throughout the U.S. "The city that has a franchise with ABI will receive exposure throughout the world. It is more than an honor and a privilege to represent one's country and state," Toney said.

The ABI will begin negotiating franchise opportunities with cities from coast to coast. Other cities believed to be a part of the ABI are Little Rock, Tampa, Atlanta, Columbus, Shreveport, St. Louis, Nashville, Austin, Beaumont (TX), and Laredo (TX).


May 27, 2008
     Birmingham Gladiators logo
While taking part in the 2008 Freewill Games held on May 24-26 at Miles College, the team was called the Birmingham Gladiators. The Gladiators defeated the Zheijiang Lions of the China Basketball Association in all 3 games.

The Americas Basketball International and the China Basketball Association will both compete in the International Basketball Tour in September.

July 28, 2009
The 2009 Freewill Games held on July 23rd at Bill Harris Arena at Fair Park was a complete failure, according to a Venezuelan team official.

The Venezuelan national team came to Birmingham expecting to play in an International tournament, but left early because Toney failed to provide meals or reimbursements for transportation and flights.

"This was a real disaster. There's no money. There's no games. I feel ridiculous and frustrated," said Francisco Diez, Venezuelan team technical director. Diez claims Toney told team officials that they would participate in a tournament against a mix of local and International teams.

However, the Birmingham Gladiators were the only other team involved. The Gladiators won, 86-84 in the only game played. Toney claims the reason other international teams did not come was due to player visas not clearing.

The Venezuelan team left 10 days early. Toney claims the team left because they didn't want to experience the embarrassment of losing again to the Gladiators.

Diez said Toney covered the hotel costs but has not reimbursed the team for air fare nor meals. The team also had to find a way from the airport to their hotel since no one from the Freewill Games were there to pick them up. Diez claims the team is asking him to personally reimburse them for the $18,000 the team lost on the trip.

Toney disputes Diez's claim saying, "They got all of that. I've got receipts and all. They got all of that. I provided for 15 people (and) I paid for 20. So tell me I didn't take care of them. I've got receipts for them eating, I've got receipts for their transportation, and I've got receipts from the hotel."

When word began to spread in Birmingham's Hispanic community about the team's complaints, several volunteers helped feed the team and take them to the airport. One volunteer was Theresa De Leon, who said, "Out of respect and embarrassment, I had to comb my resources. All they knew was how to walk to the (downtown) Y and to the Magic City Grill."

Jefferson County Judge Scott Vowell personally paid for the team to eat at John's City Diner. Vowell also invited the team to his court to personally apologize. "It's a black eye for our city," Judge Vowell said.

Mavi Figueres, a local court interpreter, also tried to help the team and said their treatment could be considered an insult not only to the team but also the country of Venezuela in general.

At least one Venezuelan media outlet reported that the tournament was "a fraud".

July 29, 2009
After the failure of the 2009 Freewill Games, the mayor's chief of staff has ordered an audit into its contract with Toney and the Americas Basketball International. The city has a contract with the ABI for $15,000 to promote Birmingham at their Freewill Games held last week.

"With the kind of questions that have come up, I think the most responsible thing that we can do right now is to just stop where we are and audit," Deborah Vance-Bowie said. She also noted that an audit does not mean that Toney has done anything wrong.

The city's contract with the ABI started in February and runs for 11 months. The ABI agreed to promote the city in its publications, press releases and events, specifically at the Freewill Games. They are to also promote opportunities to city youth for international, regional, state, and local competitions.

Birmingham City Council president Carole Smitherman supports the audit and said the city should apologize. "This is an embarrassing situation, and rather than it being a goodwill project, it could generate a lot of negative publicity that we are not deserving of," Smitherman said.

Diez said city officials seemed surprised when Toney took his team to the mayor's office.

It was then that Vance-Bowie discovered the proper paperwork had not been filled out for the ABI to use the Bill Harris Arena. The city waived the $2,500 rental fee for the only game that was played at the arena. "We tried to do what we could in the 11th hour because you didn't want to have international guests in your city and then point fingers about who didn't fill out the proper paperwork," Vance-Bowie said.

Diez said the local residents they came across were incredibly friendly. "I have nothing against Birmingham and its people," Diez said.

August 21, 2009
The city of Birmingham has set an August 31st deadline for Americas Basketball International to turn over all information requested by city auditors or face legal action.

Deborah Vance-Bowie, the mayor's chief of staff, says Toney has been submitting information "piecemeal" to city auditors. "After weeks and weeks of going back and forth with him, we need to cut it off on August 31st," Vance-Bowie said.

September 3, 2009
The city of Birmingham is seeking to recover money from the $15,000 contract it has with Anthony Toney and the Americas Basketball International.

"ABI contractually agreed to promote the city at the Freewill Games, but the Freewill Games did not occur as promised," said Julie Elmer. Elmer is the mayor's special counsel who heads the city's auditing division.

During the audit, 3 glaring issues were uncovered; the ABI did not have a business license, city logos and promotional materials were missing from the ABI's website until after an August 10th meeting with Toney, and one of the ABI's vendors claimed an invoice from ABI incorrectly reflected a large cash payment when in fact they had not been paid.

Epilogue
After doing everything wrong, the Americas Basketball International finally did the right thing and died a quiet death. 
 
Photograph
Birmingham Gladiators vs Zheijiang (China) Lions

Photograph
Birmingham Gladiators vs Zheijiang (China) Lions



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Last update: February 13, 2018