XFL: Should Roger Goodell and the NFL Worry About Vince McMahon This Time Around?

Vince McMahon and the XFL lasted one season the first time around as a punkish, off-season alternative to the NFL. McMahon, the impresario of World Wrestling Entertainment, described his own creation as a “colossal failure” amid dire television ratings on NBC.

On Thursday McMahon, 72, and still as bullish as ever, resurrected the XFL with some new twists for a professional sports world that has flipped on its head since his idea fizzled in 2001.

While the original XFL was conceived as a brasher, technicolor rival to the NFL, McMahon’s new vision seems to be geared specifically to those football fans put off by the NFL’s combustible and compelling recent melding with politics and social activism.

"People don't want social and political issues coming into play when they are trying to be entertained," McMahon told ESPN on Thursday. "We want someone who wants to take a knee to do their version of that on their personal time."

"I can say, 'Here are the rules, and as long as you are playing football in the stadium for us, you follow these rules'", he continued, opaquely referencing the wave of player protests against perceived police brutality sparked by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

McMahon said his league would begin in January 2020, with eight teams playing a ten-week regular-season schedule followed by playoffs. Unlike the NFL, the teams will be owned by the league.

“[The XFL] opened to massive TV ratings. But the audience did not stick around on Saturday nights to watch bad football, lascivious cheerleader shots, sophomoric double entendres and other gimmicks that saw ratings plummet and quickly doomed the league”, a pithy Associated Press article via Boston.com stated on Thursday. While the lasciviousness is unlikely to feature any more, McMahon apparently still has a few gimmicks up his sleeve. He told ESPN he wanted games to be two hours, and for the new XFL to be free from criminals. "We are evaluating a player based on many things, including the quality of human being they are," McMahon said. "If you have any sort of criminal record or commit a crime you aren't playing in this league."

McMahon said he would welcome Tim Tebow, the devout former Denver Broncos quarterback turned minor-league baseball player. He may have more of a problem with Johnny Manziel, the former Cleveland Browns first-round draft pick whose NFL career ended amid legal problems. Manziel, 25, tweeted to McMahon on Thursday with the hashtag, “XFL2020”.

 

 

McMahon hasn’t yet announced in which cities his teams will be based, or any television contracts. The original XFL attempted to exploit markets without an NFL team, such as Birmingham, Orlando and Memphis.

Perhaps disaffection with the NFL’s product, combined with an appetite for football in the NFL and college offseason added to markets with no NFL presence will lead to a longer lifetime for the second coming of the XFL. The behemoth that is the NFL, though, is unlikely to be too concerned.