- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2000

The XFL the new football league started by wrestling promoter Vince McMahon may not be coming to Washington after all, at least not for the inaugural 2001 season.

When plans were announced in February for the new league, Washington was among the six cities selected, according to XFL officials.

But sources say the XFL's plans for the first season of operation no longer include Washington. However, the league likely will come here in its second year.

John Richardson, chairman of the D.C. Sports Commission, confirmed that bypassing Washington for the first year was the likely scenario for the XFL.

"I would not be surprised if that happens," he said.

XFL officials have been in negotiations with the commission for the use of RFK Stadium.

League officials refused to confirm or deny the league's plans for Washington. However, Jason Bernstein, a spokesman for the league, did confirm Washington's presence in the league for its first year of operation had become uncertain.

"It's still up in the air," Bernstein said. "It could go either way. If it's not the first year, then we would look forward to coming there the next season. We'll have to see how it plays out over the next couple of weeks."

The change in the XFL plans came as a result of its partnership with NBC, which developed shortly after the league plans were first unveiled. Initially, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Orlando and Washington were announced as the first six teams of an eight-team league. But network executives were not as high on Washington and preferred other locations for its startup.

In addition to broadcasting games on NBC, the league also recently announced an agreement with UPN to broadcast games. Both networks have worked with McMahon on wrestling shows, with UPN most recently using World Wrestling Federation programming to bolster its ratings.

The XFL is the latest proposed professional football league seeking to compete with the NFL. Other leagues have come and gone, such as the World Football League and the United States Football League. The Arena Football League found its niche with indoor football, but the NFL now owns part of that league as well.

The XFL, though, has the benefit of its partnership with NBC which was shut out of football several years ago during the bidding process for television rights and considered starting a new league with Ted Turner. Also, the league will be a single entity owned by McMahon's company, the WWF, now a publicly traded company. League officials have estimated the WWF's initial investment will be about $100 million.

McMahon has built a billion dollar empire with his WWF, which is one of the most successful marketing and programming ventures in entertainment. WWF cable television shows consistently score high ratings, and some believe McMahon already has beaten the NFL once when ABC changed its Monday Night Football starting time back to 9 p.m. last year after ratings dropped. When MNF competed with McMahon's Monday night wrestling show, the wrestling drew larger ratings during the 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. time period. His pay-per-view shows are among the most successful in pay television history, and WWF shows consistently sell out in major arenas across the country.

McMahon's concept for the XFL initially included a 10-game season, with the emphasis on entertainment.

"Some have suggested the NFL is the 'No Fun League,' " McMahon said when he first announced plans for the league. "The XFL will be the extremely fun league.

"The XFL will take you places where the NFL is afraid to go because, quite frankly, we are not afraid of anything."

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