If XFL 1.0 failed because of gross incompetence and a lack of planning, XFL 2.0 was just unlucky to have come along during a global pandemic.
As for Friday, the league has ceased operations and laid off all of its employees, according to ESPN. The XFL cancelled the rest of its regular season on March 12th in response to the coronavirus outbreak, then later announced its entire season would be scrapped.
“The XFL is committed to playing a full season in 2021 and future years,” the league’s statement said at the time.
Well now it’s been reported that there are no plans to return next year, which technically means XFL 2.0. will have lasted even shorter than the doomed XFL 1.0 back in 2001.
Ratings were steadily sliding on national television after a solid start, but attendance was no doubt impressive in cities like Seattle (even though the Dragons were 1-4 and mostly not fun to watch on offense), St. Louis, and Houston. Local ratings in Seattle and St. Louis were incredibly impressive and proved there was some interest in football post-NFL. The markets that struggled to gain traction were unsurprisingly Los Angeles and New York.
If there’s any silver lining about XFL 2.0, it’s that this league appeared to take care of its athletes in an appropriate manner. The XFL paid all players their full base pay and benefits for the regular season, and gave them earlier than planned windows to sign with NFL teams. Houston Roughnecks star quarterback PJ Walker signed with the Carolina Panthers, while his ace receiver Cam Phillips joined the Cincinnati Bengals.
It is unfortunate that this iteration of the XFL had promise, innovative ideas, a more efficient and transparent replay system, and the potential to establish a presence for multiple seasons. Instead, as we all deal with the COVID-19 crisis, Vince McMahon’s league looks to be shut down again, and the staggering unemployment count in the United States continues its astronomical rise.