XFL co-owner Dwayne Johnson on USFL’s ‘Hollywood’ jab: ‘We got a big laugh out of that’

Story by Tom Schad, USA TODAY

As the latest iteration of the XFL has progressed through the first half of its 2023 season, the USFL has been running ads to tout its own return to play on April 15.

“This is the USFL, reborn from the OGs,” a narrator says on one USFL ad. “This isn’t some Hollywood knockoff.”

The Hollywood reference, accompanied by a shot of a football player spiking a ball in front of a green screen, appears to be a nod to the XFL being owned, in part, by actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

When asked by USA TODAY Sports about his reaction to the ad, Johnson chuckled.

“We’re all in entertainment and all connected to Hollywood, so I thought that ad – we got a big laugh out of that ad,” he said in an interview Friday. “Also, it’s much easier to talk trash when you’re hiding behind the corporate walls and a computer. We’re very forward facing. We’re not hard to find.”

A spokesperson for the USFL, which is owned by Fox Sports, declined to comment.

In about three weeks, the XFL and USFL will compete directly for television viewers for the first time, with the former broadcasting its games on Disney networks and the latter on FOX and NBC.

From the start of the USFL’s season on April 15 to the XFL’s championship game on May 13, there will be at least seven instances in which games from the two leagues overlap, and four instances where they kick off within 30 minutes of one another.

“I do think that there’s room for (both) leagues,” XFL chairwoman Dany Garcia told USA TODAY Sports. “I think one great thing about having two leagues in this slot is you’ve got to sharpen, you’ve got to give more, you’ve got to take better care of your athletes.

“Where are you playing? Are you playing in multiple markets? You have to start answering questions that maybe you weren’t answering before the XFL came on the market and started serving our product in a certain way. And at the end of the day, that’s better for the athletes and that’s better for the fans.”

Last season, the USFL’s eight teams represented cities across the United States, but they all practiced and played their home games in the same city: Birmingham, Alabama. The league has since announced plans to play games in four “hub” cities, though this still leaves several USFL teams without a game in the city they represent.

The XFL, meanwhile, also has its teams practice in a single location (Arlington, Texas) but plays games in each team’s home city – which Johnson views as an advantage.

“I think that is one of our pillars and anchors, to go and always take care of the fans, go to that city and take care of the fans,” Johnson said.

“We’re very happy with the decisions that we made. We’re very happy that we go to every market and we commit to that market long-term, we commit to those fans, we commit to that city.”

Garcia and Johnson also touted their league’s scheduling window as more closely aligning with the NFL’s offseason. The XFL’s season began the weekend after the Super Bowl and ends a few weeks before NFL teams usually begin holding organized training activities. The USFL season runs through July 2.

Ultimately, however, Garcia said she appreciates that both leagues are expanding the football ecosystem in the U.S., which she called “a fantastic thing.”

“We’re going to continue to execute our playbook,” she said. “I love where we’re at. I love our slot. I love our decision to be in a specific window that advances where our athletes can go afterwards, as compared to much later in the season – which is really challenging. So I think we absolutely wish (the USFL) the best.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: XFL co-owner Dwayne Johnson on USFL’s ‘Hollywood’ jab: ‘We got a big laugh out of that’