A successful XFL debut falls victim to coronavirus

By Tia Lowe

When the XFL ended operations before completing one season, the move left thousands unemployed and fans disappointed. The cancellation is another example of the impact of the novel coronavirus.

The Xtreme Football League appeared headed toward major success as it started its first season this year, but operations were shuttered after 20 games amid fears of the covid-19 outbreak. Everything was on track for the new league until “bad luck” struck, said XFL athletic trainer Najeeb Emmanuel. “Since this was a new league, they did not have enough financially to keep it afloat,” he said. “The leagues’ ending was unfortunate news for fans interested in the new league.”

 The league, started by Vince McMahon, the billionaire chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment, was considered an off-season competitor for the National Football League. Fan interest was high and the XFL held rights to a television deal with ESPN and Fox Sports, and had eight franchises throughout the country. The league also was counting on the drama of teams that included former NFL players, college athletes who had suffered injuries and players that demonstrated potential but were never offered NFL deals.

Other leagues across the country, including the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball also had postponed or discontinued their seasons. The XFL, however, in an unexpected move, suspended all operations and laid off all staff. And the cancellation took many sports fan by surprise. “I feel disappointed knowing that the XFL will not be moving forward given the excitement surrounding the league,” said XFL fan Arthur Cribbs. “At the same time, I’m not surprised by the decision because it was still a new league and it doesn’t have the financial backing to survive a prolonged period of time without games.”

Fan Michael Burgess said he was looking forward to the league’s potential. “I was excited to see the partnerships that could develop between the XFL and NFL… It was essentially like a mini NFL.” Burgess’s words had a ring of truth. After the league closed, a number of XFL players were able to make the jump from XFL to NFL rosters.

But could the league have survived a temporary shutdown?  Some say the league would have been in a better position to weather the pandemic if it had completed a full season. As it stood, the XFL games were producing a turnout of about 20,000 fans per game and according to sportingnews.com, had nearly 362,515 ticket sold in its fifth week. Along with ticket sales came TV ratings. Research conducted by 247sports.com found that the 16 XFL games played as of March 4 averaged more than 2 million television viewers per game. What made the XFL special was that it employed thousands and gave second chances to players who thought their careers were over. Right now the XFL has no plan to resume in 2021.

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