CFL, XFL Considering Championship Game, Merger?

The XFL’s reboot did not make it through the full season, with the pandemic leading the league to nix the second half of it, and litigation followed. But under Dwayne Johnson, the league is yet again attempting to return.

As of now, the XFL plans to return in 2022. But the league is holding discussions with a far more established football brand. The Canadian Football League is in talks with the XFL. While an official CFL release describes these discussions as efforts to collaborate and “grow the game,” a true partnership may be the objective.

One of the options being discussed: a championship game between the two leagues, according to Front Office Sports’ Michael McCarthy, who adds that the game would occur after the two leagues crown champions. This would be similar to the AFL and NFL in the late 1960s, when four championship games — later referred to as Super Bowls — were held ahead of a merger. The CFL and XFL may hope to traverse a similar course. A long-term objective in play, per McCarthy: a CFL-XFL merger.

Considering how the XFL’s two launch efforts have gone, it would qualify as stunning to see the CFL link up with the fledgling league. The CFL has been in existence since 1958, but the COVID-19 pandemic also impacted its operation last year. The CFL did not play in 2020, losing out on considerable revenue. Last year, the CFL explored a partnership with The Spring League, an American outfit, so some momentum may exist for the Canadian operation to forge an agreement.

While the XFL started its two seasons in February, the CFL plays in the summer and into the fall. One party would need to shift its calendar in order for this unusual partnership to take place. The Canadian league currently houses nine teams; XFL 2.0 featured eight. The leagues also would need to work out rule harmony, with the CFL game featuring some obvious differences from the one the XFL played in 2020.

A Johnson-led partnership acquired the XFL from bankruptcy, and the league is tentatively expected to resume play in 2022. However, this may be contingent on how the CFL meetings go. Plans for a 2022 XFL return are on hold, pending talks with the CFL, XFL president Jeffrey Pollack said last month (Twitter link). It appears the two leagues are exploring what could be a necessary arrangement, one that would make for a fascinating development.

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XFL To Return In 2022

The Rock says the XFL will return in the spring of 2022 (Twitter link via Dwayne Johnson). This will mark the third iteration of the pro football league, which was recently acquired from original founder Vince McMahon.

As owners, we’re proud to champion our XFL players, coaches, cities and fans into an electrifying 2022 season! It’s an uphill battle – but we’re hungry, humble and no one will outwork us,” Johnson wrote. “[This will be] a league of culture, passion, and purpose.”

The XFL’s relaunch ended midway through its (re)inaugural season, prompting McMahon to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. McMahon put the league up for sale in May and reportedly attracted “dozens” of potential bidders. Ultimately, McMahon’s longtime WWE superstar presented the top offer. McMahon, meanwhile, still has some loose ends to tie up. Commissioner Oliver Luck sued McMahon and other execs have filed claims to collect their pay. The XFL released its players in March, allowing quarterbacks Josh Johnson, P.J. Walker, Jordan Ta’amu, and others to seek NFL deals.

There was some speculation to a 2021 return, but the current climate would make a short turnaround difficult. Instead, the XFL will take an additional year to get organized and land the television deals needed to make the league viable. The 2020 XFL included eight teams: the Dallas Renegades, the Houston Roughnecks, the Los Angeles Wildcats, the Seattle Dragons, the D.C. Defenders, the New York Guardians, the St. Louis BattleHawks, and the Tampa Bay Vipers. The 2022 iteration may or may not include all of those markets.

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Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson To Buy XFL

Finally, the XFL has come back to the news cycle. On Monday, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson announced that he has purchased the XFL. Johnson’s group – with backing from Redbird Capital Partners – will acquire the league from Vince McMahon for $15MM, as Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com tweets

[RELATED: Former XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck Sues Vince McMahon]

The acquisition of the XFL with my talented partners, Dany Garcia and Gerry Cardinale, is an investment for me that’s rooted deeply in two things – my passion for the game and my desire to always take care of the fans,” said The Rock. “With pride and gratitude for all that I’ve built with my own two hands, I plan to apply these callouses to the XFL, and look forward to creating something special for the players, fans, and everyone involved for the love of football.”

The XFL’s relaunch ended midway through its (re)inaugural season, prompting McMahon to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. McMahon put the league up for sale in May and reportedly attracted “dozens” of potential bidders. Ultimately, McMahon’s longtime WWE superstar presented the top offer. McMahon, meanwhile, still has some loose ends to tie up. Commissioner Oliver Luck sued McMahon in April and other executives have filed claims to collect their pay.

The XFL 3.0, presumably, will target a 2021 relaunch. In the meantime, a number of XFL players are pushing for NFL roster spots in training camp.

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XFL 2021 Return In Play?

Spring football may have another chance. Despite the in-season cancellations of the Alliance of American Football and the XFL the past two years, the latter may try to relaunch one more time.

The XFL filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month, and Vince McMahon put the league up for sale earlier this month. Contrary to some rumblings, McMahon confirmed he has no plans to buy back the league at a lower cost, according to The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan (subscription required).

However, bidders have emerged, with Kaplan adding that potential buyers have indicated they would plan a 2021 XFL season. The league’s investment bank, Houlihan Lowkey, indicated “dozens” of prospective buyers have surfaced. Most are eyeing a spring 2021 season, Kaplan notes.

Although the 2020 XFL season did not make it as far as 2001’s did, the product was better received than the more sensational endeavor was 19 years ago. XFL’s first effort made it through the season but did not return for a second year. The COVID-19 pandemic ended up nixing the rebooted season halfway through its 10-game slate, and several XFL 2.0 standouts have landed on NFL rosters.

The second XFL effort included messy fallout as well. Commissioner Oliver Luck sued McMahon in April. Several of the eight teams’ presidents filed claims to collect their pay, Kaplan writes in a separate piece. The sale process may drag on until September, Kaplan adds. This would complicate matters regarding player acquisitions for a potential 2021 season.

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Vince McMahon Puts XFL Up For Sale

Could the XFL reemerge for a third time? After shutting down the league, laying off all of its employees, and declaring bankruptcy, Vince McMahon has put the XFL up for sale, according to Dan Primack of Axios.

[RELATED: Former XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck Sues Vince McMahon]

The XFL and its managing investment bank has requested letters of intent to be submitted by June 12. After that, formal bids will be due on July 6. Together, they’re attempting to make a case for someone to purchase the XFL. They say the league was on track for $46MM in revenue last year with an average game attendance of 20K. While those attendance numbers might be accurate, the league was said to be handing out lots of free tickets to fill the seats.

It’ll be tough for the WWE czar to find a taker, industry investors tell Primack, though one source says it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

There are lots of people who are very rich but not rich enough to own an NFL team, so maybe someone will see this as the next best thing at a bargain price,” said the investor, who is not personally mulling a bid for the XFL.

The XFL released players from their contracts on March 12, allowing quarterbacks Josh Johnson, P.J. Walker, Jordan Ta’amu, and others to seek NFL deals.

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Panthers Draft Former XFL S Kenny Robinson

The XFL is on the board. With the sixth pick in Round 5, the Panthers selected safety Kenny Robinson, who last played for the St. Louis BattleHawks.

Before his half-season in Vince McMahon‘s rebooted league, Robinson starred at West Virginia. As a sophomore, he made first-team in the conference, notched 77 stops, and hauled in a team-leading four interceptions. Then, he was ejected from the Mountaineers’ bowl game and booted from the program for alleged academic fraud.

With wingspan to swat passes and aggressive tackling (albeit, sometimes too aggressive), Robinson will look to make the cut in Carolina.

Former XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck Sues Vince McMahon

Former XFL commissioner Oliver Luck is taking Vince McMahon to court, as Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic writes. Luck is seeking restitution for what he says was a wrongful termination. 

[RELATED: XFL Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy]

The XFL shut down operations in the midst of its comeback season and, recently, filed Chapter 11 to renegotiate its debts. Meanwhile, Luck was set to earn at least $20MM on the multi-year contract he signed back in 2018. McMahon’s attorney says a letter was given to Luck to explain “the reasons” for his firing. In short, Luck is set to argue that he was fired without cause; McMahon will contend that he was fired with cause and, therefore, he does not owe him anything.

Luck helped steward the league’s relaunch, even as he and McMahon watched the Alliance of American Football beat them to the punch.

“We watched them closely,” Luck said in the summer of 2019. “Personally, there was no dancing on the grave, no schadenfreude. I was hoping they’d make it through their championship game. … It’s helped us a little bit, reaffirmed our model. The AAF also made some mistakes. (The Apollos), in the sports business, that’s like a pilot forgetting to turn the engine on.”

The XFL has laid off all of its employees with no current plans to resume operations, so this could be the last we see of the experimental league. However, McMahon may have lots of legal filings and court dates ahead of him – that’s usually the way things go for companies that file bankruptcy.

Luck, the father of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, should be able to land on his feet once the dust settles. After earning his law degree, Luck held key positions in the NFL, NCAA, and MLS.

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XFL Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

The XFL has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic (on Twitter). By going Chapter 11 instead of Chapter 7, the XFL is enabling itself to renegotiate debts, rather than liquidating its assets. In theory, the Chapter 11 designation would also allow the XFL to continue operations. 

[RELATED: XFL Suspends Operations, Lays Off Employees]

Late last week, the XFL suspended its operations and laid off all of its employees. On a company-wide conference call to announce the news, COO Jeffery Pollock did not provide any indication that the league would reopen. The decision to go Chapter 11 instead of Chapter 7 does not mean that the league is planning to make another return, but it does leave the door open slightly. In reality, a second XFL comeback is probably the furthest thing from Vince McMahon‘s mind right now.

The XFL quickly captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of people who love football,” the XFL said in a statement (via TMZ). “Unfortunately, as a new enterprise, we were not insulated from the harsh economic impacts and uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Accordingly, we have filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.”

This is a heartbreaking time for many, including our passionate fans, players and staff, and we are thankful to them, our television partners, and the many Americans who rallied to the XFL for the love of football.”

In the process, TMZ hears that the XFL has lost “tens of millions in revenue.” Still, the league paid its employees through April 12, weeks after the 2020 season was cancelled midway through. Meanwhile, XFL players have been freed to seek deals with NFL teams.

XFL Suspends Operations, Lays Off Employees

The XFL has suspended operations and laid off its entire workforce, as Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. The XFL was already on the ropes thanks to the COVID-19 epidemic and this could prove to be the knockout blow. 

Vince McMahon attempted to reboot his football league with a ten-game (re)inaugural season, but he was forced to shut things down halfway through. Initially, the XFL expressed confidence that it would return in 2021, but McMahon might be forced to close up shop on the XFL for a second time.

Similar to the first time around, the XFL received mixed reviews from fans. The league did well in TV ratings to start the year as viewers looked for post-Super Bowl entertainment, but interest tailed in the following weeks. Still, the XFL featured a host of notable names and those players were released from their contracts on March 12, freeing them to pursue deals with NFL teams. Quarterbacks Josh JohnsonP.J. WalkerJordan Ta’amu were among those who were in, then out, of the XFL 2.0.

XFL employees will be paid through Sunday, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. In his conference call with employees, COO Jeffery Pollock did not provide a timeline for when operations might resume.

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Seahawks, Cardinals, Broncos Interested In XFL QB P.J. Walker

The second incarnation of the XFL didn’t make it a full season due to COVID-19, but before that things had been going surprisingly well. Things were much smoother than in the ill-fated AAF, and some players are already starting to reap the benefits.

The Seahawks, Cardinals, and Broncos have all reached out to the Houston Roughnecks to express interest in their quarterback P.J. Walker, a source told Mark Berman of FOX 26 (Twitter link). XFL players are allowed to sign with the NFL starting Monday morning, Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com tweets, and it sounds like Walker could get scooped up pretty quickly.

The Temple product signed with the Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2017, and spent most the next three years on their practice squad. Walker became one of the first stars of Vince McMahon’s upstart league, as he led the Roughnecks to a perfect 5-0 start before the rest of the season was cancelled.

In those five games Walker had 1,338 yards and 15 touchdowns, leading the league in both categories. Now we see why Indianapolis kept bringing him back each offseason. All three of the interested teams won’t be looking at Walker as anything more than a backup, but he could make for a good reserve option as all three have similarly athletic and mobile starters.

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