Sources: XFL staff laid off, no plans for 2021

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 coronavirus concerns, 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.

The XFL is owned by WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon, who was making his second foray into professional football. His rowdy 2001 version of the XFL also folded after one year.

McMahon pivoted 180 degrees for XFL 2.0, asking Luck to create a serious football league that would market a new version of the game while avoiding direct competition with the NFL. Luck led a group of staffers through two years of product development, establishing a series of innovations — from its new kickoff alignment to its three-tiered extra point structure — that caught the eye of multiple members of the NFL competition committee.

XFL staffers fully believed that the league would resume play in 2021. Players had previously been told they would be paid through the end of the regular season, which was scheduled to end this weekend.

The XFL is the second spring football league in as many years to suspend operations before completing its final season, albeit for much different reasons. The Alliance of American Football (AAF) ran out of money in 2019 and closed after eight weeks of play. The XFL might have been the first pro sports league to fall victim to the economic crisis caused by the global pandemic.

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