WWE's McMahon plans to start pro football league

First effort, in 2001, ended after one season

Fireworks explode announcing the start of the XFL season in Orlando, Fla. on Saturday, February 3, 2001. The XFL pro football league is returning in 2020 and will be focused on re-imaging the game of football. (John Raoux/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)
Fireworks explode announcing the start of the XFL season in Orlando, Fla. on Saturday, February 3, 2001. The XFL pro football league is returning in 2020 and will be focused on re-imaging the game of football. (John Raoux/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

Vince McMahon, the flamboyant chairman and founder of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., confirmed he plans to start a new professional football league, entering the market amid a slump in TV ratings for the NFL.

McMahon, 72, announced his plans on a webcast Thursday. The XFL will kick off in January 2020 and play for 10 weeks, he said, suggesting the season will overlap some with the National Football League, which wraps up with the Super Bowl in early February.

It’s McMahon’s second attempt after the original XFL, backed by WWE and NBC, folded after one season in 2001.

Professional football is the most popular programming on television in the United States, with games attracting $2.42 billion in ads during the regular season. It’s also shown weakness in recent years, with viewing and commercial spending declining.

McMahon said his league will stay away controversies that have dogged the NFL, such as players’ national anthem protests.

“It’ll have nothing to do with politics or social issues,” he said. “We’re here to play football.”

He said the XFL likely will have rules that require players to stand for the national anthem.

In December, WWE said McMahon was looking for new investment opportunities “across the sports and entertainment landscape” and that he sold about $106 million in stock to fund a new entity.

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McMahon said Thursday the cost of starting a new league was “still too rich” to create through WWE.

“We have two years to get it right,” he said.

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