McMahon fan, yes … XFL, no

Published 10:24 am Monday, February 5, 2018

I’ve always liked Vince McMahon…ECU grad, boisterous billionaire, owner/founder of WWE (nee WWF), entrepreneur, risk-taker; and to some folks, shaman and charlatan. With Vince, there is no in-between.

So here it is, after months of wrangling longer than a Stone-Cold Steve Austin tap-out, we seem to have plunged headfirst into what one writer called Alternative Football – a league that gives us the option of reinforcing our own beliefs and insulating ourselves from the way other people see the world.

The only surprise here? Why’d it take so long?

It’s unclear how long McMahon was contemplating some version of what one pundit called the ‘Anthem Stander Football League’ or as McMahon calls it, the rebooted XFL, which will debut in 2020. Face it, when our current president started rallying against Colin Kaepernick it got a reaction; like creating a clearly definable market.

Nowadays we see how music, clothing, even cable news goes about marketing. If so, there’s no reason to turn America’s favorite sport into a clean, conservative dog and pony show.

McMahon says players will be required to stand for the national anthem. He also stressed that the league will only employ players without criminal histories – even a DUI – which would rule out, say, Johnny Manziel, for example, and maybe about three-quarters of McMahon’s talent pool.

With the original product, McMahon promised a brand of football even more violent than what Al Michaels calls on Sunday nights. The old XFL lasted just one season, 2001,​ and cost both WWE and NBC millions. This new venture doesn’t sound as though it will present itself as a violent, tough guy, bite-the-head-off-a-frog brand of football.

Need proof? Aside from pledging to keep the game length at two hours flat, have eight teams with 40-man rosters, and play in the winter and spring, it seemed the only concrete thing McMahon knew he wanted from the 2020 venture was what kinds of players they want in the league.

He has no broadcast partners, distribution plan, or even any planned cities just yet.

“We’re going to give the game of football back to the fans,” McMahon said at his introduction last week.

Now where’ve we heard that one before?

“We’re here to play, we want really good football and I think that’s what fans want,” said McMahon. “When they tune in, I don’t think they want to be dealing with politics.”

McMahon plans to actually put out a booklet to make sure all XFL players understand the rules as well as everyone else, and he will demand everyone abide by them.

“There’s plenty of opportunities and plenty of ways in which players, coaches and members of the media can express yourselves in terms of your own personal views as far as social aspects are concerned. When we come onto the field, we’re here to play football. That’s going to be our job,” he said.

“If Tim Tebow wants to play, he could very well play,” concluded McMahon.

A league full of Tim Tebow’s (but no Johnny Manziel!). Take a minute to let that one sink in.

Maybe with a two-year head start the XFL can deliver some kind of on-field product that actually aids the NFL in molding players. For athletes who are out of work, it will hopefully be a chance to earn a living while they wait for a chance in the big show. Remember the XFL player with ‘He Hate Me’ on his jersey, Rod Smart? He closed out his career with the Carolina Panthers.

You may have a very real and legitimate gripe against someone kneeling for the national anthem because this country means something particular to you. But I also think this topic is a bit more complex than you’re either with us or against us.

C’mon Vince, football shouldn’t be this hard.


Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7211.