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September 29, 2018

XFL CEO Talks Vince McMahon, Mandating Players Stand For The Anthem, & Re-Imagining Football: ‘Forget About 2001’

XFL commissioner and CEO Oliver Luck recently talked with former Green Bay Packers linebacker AJ Hawk on The HawkCast podcast.
Luck opened up about all things XFL including his thoughts on WWE CEO Vince McMahon & what it takes to create a professional football league from scratch:
On How His Own Personal Experience Helps In His New Role As XFL Commissioner And CEO:
I do feel as though my experience playing football at the college level has helped me, certainly at the NFL level. Probably the thing that has helped me the most in terms of getting ready for this challenge was the ten years I spent working for the NFL after I quit playing, in Europe. Running franchises in the old World League of American Football and basically running the league as league president in the ’90s and being an athletic director, you’re administering football. That’s what you do. Not only the football side with coaches; but, also the business side – you gotta sell tickets, you gotta sell sponsorships, you’ve got stadium up-keeps, concession issues, parking, all those things that matter to having a successful football program. I also believe that in life everything you do helps you in the job you’re currently doing. You take skills that you picked up along the way and try to use them the best you can to try to do a successful job wherever you’re at. I’m absolutely prepared – I think – for this challenge.

On Forging Forward With A Brand New XFL:
We’re looking at it more as shaping a lump of clay and trying to do the best we can possibly do. Forget about 2001. Some of the things that were done were a little bit gimmicky, I think is maybe the best word. We want to make this build a serious sustainable league that football fans can enjoy, that families can enjoy, that’s family affordable, that’s as safe as can be while still respecting the great rock ’em sock ’em game of football, which we know and you know better than I, is a very physical rough game. We kind of look at it as taking a mold of clay – thanks to Vince [McMahon] and his foresight – we’ve given ourselves plenty of time before we kick off in 2020 to get it right, to really make sure we’re doing all the right things in terms of tweaking the rules, the markets we go to, the types of coaches and players we have in our league. I almost feel like we’re starting from scratch quite honestly.

On His Initial Meeting With Vince McMahon:
I didn’t know Vince. I think I may have met him at one point along the way sort of in passing. One of his folks asked me if I’d be willing to take a meeting with Vince.  I said, ‘Sure.’ He’s a fascinating guy, hugely successful, built a remarkable publicly traded company: the WWE. I’d be happy to take a meeting, so as I sat with him, I realized he was dead serious about building this league in what I consider to be a proper appropriate fashion with an emphasis on family and affordability and that type of thing. He was committing serious capital to this project and that’s important to every project.

On Where The XFL Will Be Headquartered:
WWE is located in Stamford, CT right outside of New York City, Fairfield County, and we will be headquartered right next door, literally.

On Vince McMahon’s Specific Instructions & Re-Imagining Football:
We’re trying to re-imagine the game. This is really instructions from Vince. He said, ‘I want you to get the best minds you can and re-imagine the game of football.’ I said, ‘Vince what does that mean?’ He said, ‘I want a fast-paced game. I want a high octane kind of a game, lots of plays, almost like the hurry up college offenses you see. I want fewer stoppages because people don’t like all the breaks, whether it’s TV time outs or whatever. I want more rhythm, more flow of the game.’

On Whether The XFL Will Compete With The NFL:
We’re playing in the Spring. We’re not competing for television windows in the Fall. That would be virtually impossible with the NFL and College Football. That’s a good way of saying we consider ourselves a compliment to Fall Football, which is gonna remain the popular time to play football because you’ve got to institutions the NFL and College Football.

On When The XFL Season Will Begin & What It May Look Like:
We’re planning to start after the Super Bowl. I can’t say whether it’s the weekend after or a couple of weekends after; but, we’ll start at some point in the month of February or at the latest early Match. We’ll have a ten game regular season, a weekend of playoff games, two semi-final games, and then the championship. So, all in all it will be a twelve game season.

On Whether Players With A Past Criminal Conviction Will Be Allowed In The League:
I’ll say this this way. I said to Vince I think it’s very important that our players have good character. Character is as important as football ability. If we’re serious about being a family friendly sport, we want to make sure we have good quality people, not only as players; but, coaches as well, administrators, etc. We’ll have to develop sort of more specific policies about what would disqualify a guy. We haven’t quite honestly gotten around to that yet; but, at the end of the day I do agree with Vince that we want to have good character folks playing football in this league and I think there’s plenty of those good character, good quality athletes out there as well.

On Players Standing For The National Anthem:
Vince feels strongly about that, so that will be one of those things that will differentiate us from the NFL. Remember, unlike the NFL we will not have a union when we start. There won’t be collective bargaining….we could say to a player , ‘Hey there is a clause in the contract that says I hereby agree to stand for the National Anthem.’ Period. End of story. That won’t have to be collectively bargained. My position would be as long as a player knows before hand that that’s part of the contract then that’s a workplace rule and we can enforce that workplace rule. If you go into a contractual situation, knowing what the workplace rules are, you’re obligated to follow those rules, otherwise there will be consequences.

(Transcription Credit: Michael McClead, WrestleZone)


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