Vince McMahon has dominated the world of professional wrestling as the CEO of WWE for decades now, but he’s hoping to expand beyond the mat and into the gridiron.
In a Thursday afternoon press conference, McMahon announced the return of the XFL, a football league that he and NBC tried for one season in 2001.
While his first jump into professional football was seen as a failure due to the league’s relying more on flash and antics than football, McMahon insisted he is giving this second try a more serious effort.
“It’s the quality of the play” — that’s a lesson McMahon told reporters he learned from his first attempt at creating a professional football league. He says he will now be hiring various experts to help guide the process in building the XFL up properly. He expects the league to launch in 2020.
“We have two years now to really get it right,” McMahon said, adding that all possibilities are on the table when it comes to how the games will air and which U.S. cities will be participating in the league.
McMahon is funding the league himself with an initial investment of $100 million, and he will continue his services to the WWE, though he says the two sports leagues will not cross over in any way.
Asked whether bringing the XFL back was a response to the declining ratings of the NFL and the controversy over players who kneel for the national anthem, McMahon insisted he’d always intended to bring the league back. He did, however, draw sharp differences between his future league and the currently controversial NFL.
“It’ll have nothing to do with politics,” McMahon said of the new XFL. “We’re there to play football. That’s what fans want … That’s what we’re going to deliver.”
Though he would not confirm whether or not there would be a specific rule for players to stand during the national anthem, McMahon suggested his league would show nothing but respect for the flag and the country’s anthem.
“The national anthem is a time-honored tradition,” he said. “Whatever our rules are will be what our players will abide by.”
Later, pressed on the potential for a mandatory rule saying players must stand for the national anthem, McMahon said, “I think it’d be appropriate to do that.”
Another difference between the XFL and NFL will be the tolerance of criminal behavior. Many players in the NFL have criminal records and commit crimes while participating in the league. McMahon said no such criminal behavior will be tolerated in his league.
“The quality of the human being is just as important as the quality of the player,” he said.
McMahon also said he is looking to create faster games. He is open to axing the halftime block, as he wants his games to last for a swift two hours. An NFL game can last anywhere from three to four hours, sometimes more.
Though McMahon’s first foray into professional football was not successful, the country is in a very different place culturally. The NFL does not have the unwavering support it once did. The league’s failure to set a hard policy on players’ kneeling for the national anthem has caused ratings to drop and many Americans to launch boycotts.
Whether the XFL can properly challenge the NFL and win over real talent and the eyeballs of average Americans remains to be seen — but there has certainly never been a more opportune time to launch an opposing football league to the NFL than right now.
PopZette editor Zachary Leeman can be reached at [email protected].