The XFL suspended operations Friday morning and laid off nearly all of its staff, multiple sources told ESPN. While a handful of executives remain employed, the league currently has no plans to return in 2021.
The league canceled its season last month after five games as part of a nationwide shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, pledging to return next year.
But XFL CEO Jeffrey Pollack changed course Friday, conducting a 10-minute conference call to inform employees of the news.
Commissioner Oliver Luck, hired in 2018 to guide the most ambitious spring football league in decades, did not speak on the call. It was not immediately clear if he is 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.
I wasn’t a fan of the XFL. Nothing against it – it certainly wasn’t laughable the way the original XFL was – it just held no interest for me. From what I observed, they put out a reasonably entertaining product, and a few players like former Houston Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker made enough of an impression to sign with NFL teams. They seemed to be on the road to at least having another season, but that was not to be. Perhaps this means another league will give it a try down the line, as the proof of concept seems to have been a success. Just not enough of one to survive this pandemic, the main difference between the XFL and established sports leagues being the latter have a lot more cash on hand to ride things out for awhile. I am somewhat worried about other leagues, from minor league baseball to lower-tier leagues like the ones for rugby and softball, maybe even to the NWSL and MLS. As with so many other things, who knows what the landscape may look like a month or a year from now.