The XFL Could Save Football (But It Probably Won’t)

The original iteration of the XFL only lasted one year, failing for numerous reasons ranging from the popularity of the NFL, its direct competitor, to being a rushed and inferior product, with inferior players, and so on. The XFL’s mantra then was that it was going to be even more extreme than the already hard-hitting NFL, and Vince McMahon, owner of the WWE (and thus XFL) likely thought he could do football even better. It was a stretch, sure, but his company was in the midst of the immensely popular “Attitude Era;” it wasn’t out of the question that McMahon could find something that rivaled the NFL, or at least carved out a niche alongside it, appealing to the many people who watched wrestling on television.

It didn’t happen, of course, as the XFL was largely an embarrassment, quickly shelved and jettisoned from public consciousness. It may be surprising to you then that now—in an era of CTE awareness and fair(er) treatment of women, etc.—that McMahon’s XFL, which got off on big hits and cheerleaders, is trying to make a comeback. McMahon’s already distanced himself from the previous version of the XFL, however, noting that this one will come without the gimmicks.

Okay, but what’s the angle? Well, take a step back, and you can see McMahon’s money-making levers start to jostle. The NFL’s had something of a controversial year, from players kneeling for the national anthem in droves early in the year to declining ratings to the ominous and ever-present specter of CTE knowledge. I’m not sure if McMahon sees value in that latter point, but the first two . . . that’s probably  why he’s pouncing here. He’s already made it clear in part of the XFL’s opening salvo that the league is going to essentially force players to stand during the national anthem, attempting to divorce the sport from any politics or social stances, while also not hiring, according to McMahon, any player with any sort of criminal record.

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