The XFL returned today with a rap. Really.
Earlier today, Alpha Entertainment—a new company recently created with a $100 million investment from WWE head Vince McMahon—promised a “major sports announcement” at 3 p.m. today. As everyone expected, the announcement was the re-introduction of the XFL.
It opened with a rap, teasing that the game would be quicker, simpler, and safer. (All that with “fewer infractions”? Okay.) The rap boasted that fans could gamble on games, play fantasy XFL football and compared the game to “padded roulette.” The rap also seemed to hint that fans could vote on trades somehow.
McMahon did not offer many concrete plans for the new XFL, but he did say a few things: His new company plans to launch the league in 2020 with eight teams with 40-man rosters. There probably won’t be a break for halftime. It will be played in stadiums with “simplified” rules that McMahon says will speed up the games to about two hours.
In contrast to the boobs-and-violence model for the original XFL, McMahon says the rebooted league will be family-friendly. He says he won’t hire players with criminal records (he singled out DUIs). He doesn’t have a TV deal and hasn’t been in any negotiations for one. There won’t be any crossover with wrestling; McMahon says he will remain as head of creative at WWE.
Despite the timing of some trademark filings appearing to tie the league this to the national anthem protests, McMahon said he had planned for a rebooted XFL for several years now. Though he danced around the question when it was asked directly several times, it’s clear the XFL intends to force players to stand for the national anthem.
“The national anthem is a time-honored tradition that’s played to this day—and many, many years in the past—prior to most athletic events in our country and other countries,” McMahon told reporters on a conference call following the announcement. “So whatever our rules are is what everyone will abide by. There’s plenty of opportunity and plenty of ways in which players, coaches, members of the media can express themselves… but when we come onto the field, we’re here to play football. That’s everyone’s job.”
Despite the mandatory patriotism for players, McMahon declared his new league non-political. The league will be a single entity, with Alpha Entertainment owning all the teams in the league. He wants to play in football stadiums, but did not rule out playing in baseball parks. The league will begin play in “late January or early February” of 2020 and run through the spring.
McMahon was noncommittal about the most important question: whether players would be allowed to put nicknames on the back of their jerseys. McMahon did have a memory of Rod Smart putting “HE HATE ME” on the back of his jersey, though: “That was extraordinary.”