- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Hard-hitting football is coming to the nation’s capital, and we’re not talking about the Redskins moving in from Maryland.

Washington was awarded one of eight new franchises by the XFL, Vince McMahon’s alternative professional football league that is planning a comeback. The team will play its home games at Audi Field, D.C. United’s new stadium near Nationals Park.

The new XFL will launch its inaugural season in February 2020. McMahon, the owner and chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment, announced plans to revive the league last January.

“We’re really looking forward to once again establishing a very exciting, innovative form of football that quite frankly we’ve never seen before,” McMahon said.

The XFL folded after its lone season in 2001. It was famous for personalities like Rod “He Hate Me” Smart, unapologetically brutal hits, cheerleaders in scant clothing and the combination of football with elements of pro wrestling.

But that will not be the case in the new XFL. In January, McMahon expressed a desire for the league to focus on football and implied he will disallow political statements, a la Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling.

The Washington region did not have a franchise in the original XFL. Washington will be joined in 2020 by franchises located in New York/New Jersey, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Seattle and Tampa. Team nicknames were not announced.

The announcement came Wednesday in a live-streamed press conference in East Rutherford, New Jersey. It featured Erik Moses, senior vice president and managing director of Events DC, speaking on behalf of the District.

“Washington, D.C. — as our mayor would say, the sports capital of the United States — is ready for the XFL, and we can’t wait for the inaugural season to get started,” Moses said.

The XFL is joining a handful of other secondary leagues — like the Alliance of American Football, Pacific Pro Football and the Arena Football League — entering the pro football market. The NFL’s TV ratings have gone back up in 2018, but the XFL and others are looking to attract fans with games during the NFL offseason.

While McMahon’s personal remarks lasted only three minutes, he pitched the original XFL as a concept ahead of its time that will better fit in the modern age.

“So much has changed in terms of the use of digital — social media didn’t even exist 20 years ago — in ways of distributing, in ways of interest, in terms of the various devices which were not there either,” he said. “But what has not changed is the love of football.”

Oliver Luck, the former athletic director at West Virginia University, an original member of the College Football Playoff Committee and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck’s father, is the league’s commissioner and CEO. Luck handled most of the announcement and spoke about the league’s efforts to design a faster-paced version of football, with fewer timeouts and more “meaningful action.”

“We held a series of meetings and discussed ways we can take the game that we all love and modify it, tweak it enough so that it’s familiar yet distinctive,” Luck said.

Luck said teams will begin signing quarterbacks and “other impact players” in the first quarter of 2019. The XFL will target players who are cut from 90-man NFL rosters at the end of training camp and have its first supplemental draft in the early fall of 2019.

McMahon previously announced the teams will play a 10-game season, with a four-team playoff. All eight franchises will be owned by McMahon’s company, Alpha Entertainment, in a single-entity format.


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