XFL gone for good? League suspends operations, lays off employees

In a conference call with employees Friday, the XFL suspended operations and laid off nearly all of its staff — a handful of executives remain employed — and apparently has no plans to return in 2021.

The XFL is owned by WWE CEO/President Vince McMahon and Alpha Entertainment. In a statement, the WWE said:

“Given the uncertainty of the current environment, the XFL has suspended operations and is evaluating next steps.”

When it canceled the remainder of its 2020 season last month because of the coronavirus pandemic, the league’s official statement said it was “committed to playing a full season in 2021 and future years”.

Commissioner Oliver Luck, hired in 2018 to guide the most ambitious spring football league in decades, did not speak on the call. It was not immediately clear if he is still with the league.

According to a prominent former XFL staffer who was on the call, Pollack stopped short of saying the league was going out of business. But the strong implication was clear.

“It’s done,” the staffer said. “It’s not coming back.”

There was no immediate comment from the league and the news has not been posted on the league website, xfl.com.

The league sent out players and coaches their final paycheck plus accrued vacation/overtime pay but will not be paying them through to the end of the originally scheduled season.

St. Louis Battlehawks receiver L’Damian Washington was among those reacting to the league’s decision on social media.

WWE’s McMahon was making his second foray into professional football. His rowdy 2001 version of the XFL also folded after one year.

McMahon pivoted 180 degrees for XFL 2.0, asking Luck to create a serious football league that would market a new version of the game while avoiding direct competition with the NFL. Luck led a group of staffers through two years of product development, establishing a series of innovations — from its new kickoff alignment to its three-tiered extra point structure — that caught the eye of multiple members of the NFL competition committee.

XFL staffers believed that the league would resume play in 2021. Players had previously been told they would be paid through the end of the regular season, which was scheduled to end this weekend.

The XFL is the second spring football league in as many years to suspend operations before completing its final season, albeit for much different reasons. The Alliance of American Football (AAF) ran out of money in 2019 and closed after eight weeks of play. The XFL might be the first pro sports league to fall victim to the economic crisis caused by the global pandemic.

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