WWE owner Vince McMahon is expected to announce a new professional football league nearly 17 years after the XFL folded after one season of play, ESPN reports. You can watch a live stream of the announcement below when it begins at 3 p.m. Eastern:
CBS Sports reports that McMahon will be announcing the return of the XFL, with play set to begin in 2020. McMahon sold $100 million worth of WWE stock in December to fund Alpha Entertainment LLC, “which Mr. McMahon established to explore investment opportunities across the sports and entertainment landscapes, including professional football,” a spokesperson told ESPN. Alpha Entertainment is entirely separate from the WWE. On Twitter, McMahon’s new company said he would be making a “major sports announcement” on Thursday, but did not release any other details.
The XFL debuted in 2001 as a joint venture between the WWE and NBC and folded after one season. According to ESPN, WWE and NBC lost about $35 million each, after taxes, on the league. Interest in the league was reinvigorated last year by an ESPN “30 for 30” documentary directed by Charlie Ebersol, the son of NBC’s Dick Ebersol, who partnered with McMahon on the original XFL project.
According to the legal website Justia, McMahon’s Alpha Entertainment filed for trademarks for the XFL in December. The company also trademarked URFL, UFL and the United Football league, according to Justia. While McMahon and Alpha Entertainment have stressed that the company is not connected to the WWE, McMahon wont have to travel far from the wrestling giant’s Stamford, Connecticut, headquarters, to his Alpha office. According to the company’s website, Alpha Entertainment is located at 1266 East Main Street, right across the road from WWE’s headquarters at 1241 East Main Street.
According to Forbes, McMahon’s sale of 3.34 million shares of WWE stock led to a 3 percent drop in its value, to $30.80. Forbes reports that the WWE has eclipsed all-time highs in 2018 and is in negotiations for a new television rights deal.
A source told TMZ that McMahon “sees blood in the water,” because of issues surrounding the NFL, including dipping TV ratings, the Trump-fueled National Anthem controversy and other criticism from Trump and his supporters. McMahon and Trump have a long history together and his wife, Linda McMahon, is part of the Trump administration, serving as the head of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Freelance journalist Brad Shepard first broke the story on December 15 that McMahon was going to announce the return of the XFL on January 25.
“Vince McMahon has established and is personally funding a separate entity from WWE, Alpha Entertainment, to explore investment opportunities across the sports and entertainment landscapes, including professional football. Mr. McMahon has nothing further to announce at this time,” WWE said in a statement on December 16.
The original XFL had eight teams: the Orlando Rage, Chicago Enforcers, New York/New Jersey Hitmen, Birmingham Thunderbolts, Los Angeles Xtreme, San Francisco Demons, Memphis Maniax and Las Vegas Outlaws. At least one of those cities has expressed interest in being a part of a new league run by McMahon. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s office told the Orlando Sentinel, “this is something we would be interested in learning more about to bring to Orlando.”