Jim Zorn

Oliver Luck, a former NFL quarterback and the father of former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, has been serving as commissioner of the XFL. According to reports, the XFL has ceased operations and laid off its employees. Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

The XFL informed its employees Friday that it is suspending operations effective immediately and that all team and league workers have been terminated amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to multiple reports.

Employees received the news in a leaguewide conference call with President Jeffrey Pollack that lasted 10 minutes and did not allow for any questions from employees. According to reports, workers will be paid through Sunday, and a skeleton crew of league executives will continue to work out of league headquarters in Stamford, Conn.

B.W. Carlin, who worked in the league’s social media department, confirmed on Twitter that the league had laid off its entire workforce.

It’s unclear whether the league is permanently shutting down. According to Sports Business Journal’s Ben Fischer, on Thursday the XFL issued a refund to all its season ticket holders, including money already paid for 2021 tickets.

Hoping to avoid the mistakes that doomed his first foray into offering an alternative to the NFL, WWE CEO Vince McMahon spent two years building up the league, promising to spend $500 million. He hired Oliver Luck, a former NCAA executive and father of former NFL quarterback Andrew Luck, as the league’s commissioner and was able to snag a few prominent names, including former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, as head coaches. The league promised shorter games than the NFL and interesting rule changes, including a soccer-style tiebreaking shootout, no extra points, and multiple forward passes on a single play.

Play began for the league’s 10 teams in early February, and initial returns were promising. In Washington, where pro football fans have been starved for success and dissatisfied with the experience offered by their resident NFL team for decades, the DC Defenders nearly sold out their home opener against the Seattle Renegades on Feb. 8. Initial television ratings also were strong, with 3.1 million viewers on average catching the league’s Week 1 games.

Those ratings soon began to fall, however, and on March 12, the XFL joined nearly every other sports league around the world in announcing it was shutting down its season amid the coronavirus pandemic after five games. The league said players would be paid their base pay and benefits for the 2020 regular season, adding that it was “committed to playing a full season in 2021 and future years.”

Eric Galko, the XFL’s director of player personnel, wrote on Twitter that he will have nothing but fond memories of the league he helped create.

The first version of the XFL lasted just one season in 2001. Rushed into existence as a more violent alternative to the NFL, the league garnered excellent television ratings at first before viewers became turned off by poor play and obnoxious, wrestling-style gimmicks.


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