A little background first. The XFL kicked off it’s inaugural season February 8th and was forced to suspend activity after the fifth week of action due to the coronavirus. March 12th, the XFL sent a letter to all season ticket holders announcing that the league would not be playing the remainder of its regular season games and all ticket holders would be refunded or had the option to use it as a deposit for the 2021 season. At the time, there was speculation (mostly hope) that the league may be able to return for the 2020 playoffs.
On March 20th those rumors dissipated when the XFL sent a letter to all season ticket holders officially announcing the cancellation of the season, including the playoffs. In the letter, the league was still promising a 2021 return.This…. This is when things started going sideways. April 9th, each franchise sent a note to 2021 season ticket depositors letting them know that the money would be refunded. At the time, they said that the reason was because they knew people needed cash in hand now due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
April 10th news started making the rounds that Jeffrey Pollack held a brief 10-minute conference call with all XFL staff to announce that the league would be suspending operations effective immediately. The league let go of all staff members, including coaches and executives only keeping on a small crew to handle remaining business items. Commissioner Oliver Luck did not speak on the call and it was not immediately clear if he was still with the league.
According to a prominent former XFL staffer who was on the call, Pollack stopped short of saying the league was going out of business. But the strong implication was clear. “It’s done,” the staffer said. “It’s not coming back.” There was no immediate comment from the league.
The XFL’s parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Monday, the first business day after the league suspended operations and laid off almost all of its employees. The filing, officially made by Alpha Entertainment, listed the XFL with assets and liabilities each in the range of $10 million to $50 million. The largest creditor was listed as the St. Louis Sports Commission at $1.6 million. Seven of the league’s eight coaches were are among the top creditors.
In a statement, the XFL attributed its decision to the coronavirus pandemic:
“The XFL quickly captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of people who love football. 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.”
At the time, this seemed like the end. But, as things tend to go, especially in the madness that is 2020 reports started to come out that Vince McMahon was possibly looking to sell the XFL. It was reported that the XFL was in the process of seeking a buyer for its assets in order to pay creditors. This by no means indicated that the XFL would return, but it didn’t rule it out either. THE XFL could be sold in full or in parts, like assets and equipment.
It was pretty much agreed among fans that the league would not be returning and that the coronavirus was the nail in the coffin for the XFL’s second coming.
In his suit, Luck says he received a termination letter spelling out the case against him on April 9. He said the allegations are pure BS and he denied any wrongdoing. Luck says he fulfilled his end of the bargain, running the league since its resurrection in January 2018 — only to be “wrongfully terminated.”
As for the specific allegations, Luck redacted the details in his lawsuit, most likely due to a confidentiality agreement he signed with the XFL. Luck is suing Vince personally seeking to hold him responsible for paying out a guaranteed portion of his contract.
It didn’t take long for McMahon and co to respond. Later that afternoon a representative said the following on Luck’s lawsuit.
“Oliver Luck’s services as Commissioner and CEO of The XFL were terminated by a letter sent to him on Apr. 9, 2020 which explained the reasons for the termination. As to the lawsuit he filed, his allegations will be disputed and the position of Mr. McMahon will be set forth in our response to his lawsuit.”
In response to Luck’s suit, filed April 21 in Connecticut federal court, McMahon’s attorneys said he fired Luck “for cause” and cited three examples of failures to comply with “multiple” XFL policies and directives. Luck’s attorneys followed by unsealing the termination letter and Luck’s response to that letter, calling the firing “a weak and pretextual attempt to avoid the lawful contractual obligations.” Luck also claimed that the XFL did not utilize a “30-day cure period” to address its claims before firing him, as provided for in his contract. He is seeking a $23.8 million judgment.
Those reasons, along with Luck’s responses, are as follows:
“Gross neglect” of the job once the coronavirus pandemic began. According to McMahon, Luck “effectively abandoned his responsibilities” beginning March 13 by relocating from the XFL offices in Stamford, Connecticut, to his home in Indiana and failing to “devote substantially all of his business time to his XFL duties as required by the contract.” In the response letter, Luck’s attorneys said Luck was unable to return to the office because of Connecticut’s March 20 stay-at-home order. Luck was in contact with McMahon via text message, and his attorneys’ letter listed the projects he was working on, including 2021 budgets.
Signing wide receiver Antonio Callaway without McMahon’s approval and then refusing to release him when McMahon ordered Luck to do so. McMahon had said publicly that he did not want to sign players with problematic backgrounds. Most recently, Callaway was suspended by the NFL for violating its substance abuse policy. He suffered an injury during the XFL’s January training camp and was placed on injured reserve. Luck’s response letter said that signing Callaway didn’t violate XFL policy as written and that Luck was responding to McMahon’s request to elevate wide receiver talent in the league.
Personal use of an XFL-issued iPhone, an allegation that was not mentioned in the original termination letter. The phone is being forensically examined to determine the extent of Luck’s personal use, according to McMahon’s filing.
The letter also claimed that Luck employed “gross negligence … in obtaining venues for the XFL to locate teams and in connection with the negotiation of term sheets and venue agreements.” In his response letter, Luck’s attorneys wrote that no venues were acquired without prior authorization and approval by McMahon. McMahon’s representatives dropped that issue in the next filing.
“Oliver is thrilled that this can all be aired in the court of public opinion because his position is that he was wrongfully terminated,” said Paul Dobrowski, one of his attorneys.
Once this news spread, the fans that were still holding out hope for a return pretty much all disappeared. Everyone was moving on. Podcasts, websites and fans alike were looking for something new. Then, news started coming out that the league may have found a buyer and it would be a name that you wouldn’t expect.
Initially, a lot of fans toss around Mark Cuban’s name… but that seemed far fetched. But, then May 19th the reports started coming out that this mystery buyer may be none other than Vince McMahon himself.
Now… take a second to let that soak in. Vince McMahon, who rebooted the XFL only for it to be forced into bankruptcy was looking to buy the company… from himself….
According to Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic, XFL creditors “seem to believe” McMahon is positioning to buy the league out of bankruptcy.
The clues as to the creditors’ beliefs come from their objection to a proposal in bankruptcy to pay $3.5 million in season-ticket refunds. The committee of creditors wrote that the payment “is being sought to further the efforts of the debtor’s controlling equity holder/secured lender, Vincent McMahon . . . to acquire the debtor at a fire-sale price.”
The ticket refunds would be aimed at bolstering relations with customers, in anticipation of a future business arrangement.
This alone doesn’t seem concrete enough to say one way or the other if this is truly the case or not. But, the same day this news came out reports started surfacing that league representatives had reached out to the cities of Seattle and St. Louis to restart their lease agreements.
Then, news came out that two representatives had reached out of University of Houston to see if TDECU Stadium rental and practice agreements that were in place could be used as assets if the league was acquired through the bankruptcy proceedings.
A sign the XFL (@xfl2020), which is in bankruptcy, could return and return to Houston. According to sources two XFL representatives contacted @UHCougars officials to see if the TDECU Stadium rental and practice agreements that were… pic.twitter.com/4jhBjHxRET
So… where does that leave us? Quite honestly, it’s hard to say. One things for sure, something is happening in the background. Either Vince McMahon is trying to evade debt by purchasing his own company from bankruptcy or the league may have another investor interested in keeping the XFL dream alive. According to the bankruptcy filings the league was looking to sell by mid-July so we may have our answer soon.
If the XFL returns, they have a hard road ahead of them. They will essentially need to redo all of the preparation that they had done prior to the 2020 season and without Oliver Luck or any of the ‘big-name’ coaches and executives. Not to mention, the hundreds of players and staffers that they will need to recruit all over again.
You can guarantee that Oliver Luck won’t be returning to the XFL, which is a huge blow. A lot of people look at Luck as the man that made the league the success that it was.
The bigger question really is, will people want to work for the XFL after what just happened? What caliber of coaches and players will we see? Bob Stoops was the first head coach announced for the XFL, which drew a lot of positive attention for the new league. Can they get somebody like that to come to the XFL after two failed attempts? Let along eight of them…. We hope so!
We’ll keep you posted as more information comes out, but as they say; where there’s smoke there’s fire…. and there seems to be more and more smoke everyday.
Do you think the XFL will return? Will you support it if they do? Let us know down in the comments below or join the conversation on Discord.