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The XFL is Returning to Be the “Family-Friendly” Alternative to the NFL

But what, exactly, is Vince McMahon's definition of "family-friendly"?


Yesterday, WWE founder and chairman Vince McMahon announced that he would be rebooting the XFL in hopes that it would, yet again become a legitimate competitor with the NFL, which has suffered a substantial drop in ratings this season. McMahon laid out his vision for the relaunch of the league, promising a faster and safer league that will feature eight teams playing a 10-week schedule starting in 2020. The most interesting part of the announcement came when McMahon said the XFL would be a “family-friendly” alternative to the NFL, without offering any real explanation of what that will mean.

The XFL was originally launched in 2001 to try and compete with the NFL but instead was a massive failure right out of the gate. Its low-quality of play, emphasis on violence and sex, and bizarre ruleset — including no fair catches, three-point conversions —  turned viewers off and it only managed to last one season due to low ratings. Now, McMahon is hoping the promise of an environment for families will help the XFL 2.0 fare better than its predecessor.

Of course, saying that the XFL is family-friendly is really just a way to imply that the NFL is not for families. McMahon tried to emphasize this distinction clear by announcing the new league would have no cheerleaders, perhaps implying that the NFL’s inclusion of cheerleaders is too sexual for families. But anyone familiar with the XFL’s short history knows that this likely has more to do with the fact that the original version of the league had segments where the cameras would go into the cheerleaders’ locker room to shamelessly improve ratings. He also said the league will not include anyone with a criminal record, insinuating that the NFL is a league filled with criminals.

McMahon’s true idea of a “family friendly” league, however, was revealed when he spoke about the National Anthem. McMahon would not outright say that players would be required to stand for the Star Spangled Banner but he strongly implied that the XFL will not allow for players to kneel or protest. Given the controversy that has surrounded the politicizing of the NFL, McMahon likely sees an opportunity to create a league that provides a bit of non-political escapism for the millions of viewers who have been outraged by Colin Kaepernick and others exercising their right to protest on National Television.

Considering that the XFL, which was a $100 million collaboration between WWE and NBC, considered itself the working man’s football league. It emphasized a “smashmouth” approach to the game, regularly showed cheerleaders and women hanging out in hot tubs in the end zone, and deliberately made rules that upped the chance of injury and harder hits. It was also just flat-out ridiculous, combining the over-the-top showmanship of WWE with football — a combination that would never be called family friendly. It did, however, birth the sky cam. So there’s something.