Given the ignominious end to the AAF, however, those fans understandably have concerns about how the XFL could avoid a similar fate. What could Vince McMahon’s NFL alternative do to differentiate itself from the failed AAF?
The XFL already has announced numerous ways in which it will set itself apart from both the AAF and the NFL, including the scoring system, college eligibility requirements and the overall pace of the game.
The league also has a decided advantage in television coverage over the AAF, signing a lucrative and vital deal to air its games on ABC, Fox, ESPN and Fox Sports.
The #XFL has four new homes.
— XFL (@xfl2020) May 6, 2019
But the XFL will be facing a similar battle as its spring predecessor on one front — star power.
Given that the most recognizable name in all of the AAF was notorious NFL bust Trent Richardson, perhaps it shouldn’t have been a major surprise that it folded before completing its maiden season.
The importance of star power, or at least name recognition, can’t be understated in sports.
Even people who know almost nothing about sports likely can identify Tom Brady or LeBron James at least. That type of casual knowledge is important when it comes to brand recognition.
In a May 1 interview with Sports Illustrated, XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck touched on the possibility of adding said star power, and it involved some of the biggest names not in the NFL.
“Luck ran into Tim Tebow at the Clemson-Alabama national title game in January and says he informally gauged the 31-year-old’s interest in getting under center again, but Tebow reaffirmed his commitment to baseball,” SI’s Dan Greene wrote.
Non-NFL football names don’t get much bigger than Tebow. The 31-year-old former quarterback’s response to the XFL was more or less in line with what he told the AAF when it came knocking.
What about the immensely polarizing Colin Kaepernick? The XFL tried that, too.
“That’s a little bit out of our range,” Luck told SI, referring to Kaepernick’s reported desire for a $20 million annual salary.
With the two sides so far apart on the finances, conversations never even broached the conflict of Kaepernick’s anthem protesting and McMahon’s hard-line stance against it.
SI also brought up Johnny Manziel, who certainly has name recognition but flies in the face of McMahon’s purported zero-tolerance policy when it comes to players who have run afoul of the law.
According to SI, Luck “says he has softened McMahon’s original hard-line stance against players with any criminal history — it is now zero tolerance for credible accusations of felonies and domestic violence, with misdemeanors interpreted individually.”
Given that, it’s still not clear if the XFL would welcome Manziel with open arms.
The XFL’s season kicks off Feb. 8, 2020. It’ll be fascinating to see if the upstart league can succeed where both the AAF and its own predecessor have failed so spectacularly before.
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