Is the country ready for XFL version 2.0?
On Thursday, WWE founder and chairman Vince McMahon announced some vague details about the planned 2020 relaunch of his failed pro football league, which shuttered in 2001 after just one season.
This time around, the XFL won’t have any racy cheerleaders, won’t hire players with DUIs or police records, might skip halftime entirely and will require all players to stand during the national anthem.
“There are not going to be any politics involved with this thing,” McMahon said during a press call with reporters. “We’re not going to have any social issues involved. People want to be entertained. … It’s the entertainment value that sometimes is lost.”
Despite reports that the league would be interested in recruiting former Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, McMahon told reporters that Manziel’s past run-ins with the law would exclude him from consideration. But McMahon did say he’d love to have former Eagles quarterback Tim Tebow, if he were interested.
When the XFL officially launches in 2020, McMahon said the league will play in the winter following the Super Bowl in eight yet-to-be-determined markets. There will be 40 players on each team (as opposed to the 53 NFL teams carry) and the season will be 10 weeks long with games lasting no longer than two hours. The postseason will feature two semifinal games and a championship game.
Other than that, details were scarce. So far, McMahon doesn’t have a deal with a major network to broadcast games on TV, though he insists there’s a lot of interest in his XFL relaunch.
“We want a faster game. We want a more exciting game. We want rules that are simplified,” McMahon said. “In the end, we want it to be more fan friendly with more engagement.”
Brad Shepard, a freelance journalist based in North Carolina, was first to report that McMahon was looking to bring back the XFL. He even nailed the date, indicating on Dec. 15 that the official announcement might come Jan. 25.
EXCLUSIVE: Vince McMahon is looking to bring back the XFL and may announce it on January 25th, 2018.
— Brad Shepard 🤘🏻 (@TheBradShepard) December 16, 2017
McMahon set up Alpha Entertainment separate from WWE and sold 3.34 million shares of WWE stock (worth about $100 million) to fund the new league. Deadspin’s David Bixenspan suggested McMahon’s new league could position itself as the conservative alternative to the NFL, which the WWE chairman hinted at with multiple mentions about standing for the anthem and a disdain toward social issues interfering with the game.
McMahon talked about his interest in rebooting the XFL to former NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol during ESPN’s 30 for 30 on the shuttered league.
“I don’t know what it would be. I don’t know if it’s gonna be another XFL or what it may be or how different I would make it.” McMahon said “I don’t know what else we could do that the NFL isn’t doing now, but I’m sure we could find a way.”
The XFL was a partnership between WWE and NBC, which broadcast the league’s entire 10-game season (with help from UPN and TNN) beginning in February 2001. Despite the hype surrounding the XFL, including an edginess that included an “opening scramble” in place of a coin toss and the elimination of fair catches, the league was a financial failure and ended play after just one season.
NBC, which cited poor viewership when it pulled out of its two-year broadcast contract with the XFL early, has yet to show any interest in partnering with McMahon this time around. The network did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Two former XFL players — running back Rod “He Hate Me” Smart and quarterback Casey Weldon — made their way onto the Eagles roster. Neither saw much playing time.