As expected, Vince McMahon’s alternative reboot of professional football, the XFL, March 20 formally canceled the remaining half of its season due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.
In a statement, league CEO Oliver Luck (father of former NFL QB Andrew Luck) and COO Jeffrey Pollack said they had little choice but canceling the season with COVID-19 infections topping 19,000 in the United States.
“This decision has been made with the health and safety of the entire XFL family as our top priority,” Luck and Pollack wrote.
A mainstay on ESPN and Fox Sports for football-crazy consumers, the XFL featured eight teams in Dallas, St. Louis, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Washington D.C., a 10-week season that was half completed when the coronavirus emerged in the United States, prompting the league to suspend the season.
The league, which WWE founder McMahon last operated in 2001, had averaged more than 18,000 fans per game this year, with 1.9 million average viewers across ABC Sports, ESPN, ESPN2, Fox Sports and FS1.
WWE founder Vince McMahon’s alternative professional football league, the XFL, is canceling the remainder of its inaugural season due to the coronavirus. The move follows other professional sports leagues and organizations shutting down venues and events to help thwart the spread of the pandemic that has infected more than 125,000 people and killed about 5,000.
Games have been streamed on Disney-owned ESPN’s ESPN Player, the standalone service only available outside the United States.
With many state and local governments issuing moratoriums on large gatherings of people (limited to 250 or less), the decision was largely out of McMahon’s hands.
“Currently, the XFL will not be playing its regular-season games,” the league said in a statement. “However, all players will be paid their base pay and benefits for 2020 regular season. All XFL ticket holders will be issued refunds or credit towards future games. The XFL is committed to playing a full season in 2021 and future years.”
The XFL, which had completed five weeks of its season, was scheduled to hold its championship game on April 26. The NFL doesn’t begin play until September.
The Xtreme Football League (XFL), established in 2001 for one season only by WWE founder Vince McMahon, is slated to return with a 10-game regular season Feb. 8, 2020, on ABC and Fox.
Disney-owned ESPN announced it would stream the entire XFL season on its ESPN Player, the standalone service only available outside the United States.
The eight-team league is divided into two four-team divisions (East and West). The XFL East features the DC Defenders, New York Guardians, St. Louis Battle Hawks and Tampa Bay Vipers. The Dallas Renegades, Houston Roughnecks, Los Angeles Wildcats and Seattle Dragons comprise the XFL West.
While the league will likely field NFL rejects and wannabes, former marquee players such as ex-Super Bowl QB Colin Kaepernick have reportedly met with the league.
McMahon has made it clear players in the XFL would not be permitted to kneel during the national anthem, the protest act that contributed to Kaepernick being blacklisted from the NFL.
“People don’t want social and political issues coming into play when they are trying to be entertained,” McMahon said in a press interview last year. “We want someone who wants to take a knee to do their version of that on their personal time.”
Both Kaepernick and fellow protester Eric Reid — who repeatedly kneeled during playing of the anthem as protest regarding alleged police brutality toward African American men — settled their grievances against the NFL last year.
Notably, ESPN Player is also streaming “This Was the XFL,” ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary on the upstart league’s promising but short existence 18 years ago. The doc looks at how the league impacted how professional team sports are broadcast today.