Dwayne Johnson Leads XFL Ownership Bid

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, the XFL football league shut up shop, just five weeks into its ballyhooed restart. Then it filed for bankruptcy. It seemed like an abrupt, but final, end for the revived league, which first rose to notoriety for a single season 19 years ago.

But now the league has found some buyers for its assets. And one of them is the Rock.

Dwayne Johnson, the actor and former wrestler known as the Rock; Dany Garcia, his business partner and ex-wife; and the investment firm RedBird Capital Partners bought what remained of the XFL for $15 million, pending bankruptcy court approval, it was announced on Monday.

Johnson said in a statement that he looked forward to “creating something special for the players, fans and everyone involved for the love of football.”

A news release did not specifically report when or if the XFL would be revived. It said the new owners planned “to option live entertainment intellectual property for further expansion across sports, live events and original entertainment programming.”

“This is a Hollywood ending to our sale process, and it is an exciting new chapter for the league,” Jeffrey Pollack, the XFL’s president, said.

The league’s chief executive and commissioner, Oliver Luck, filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the league’s former owner, Vince McMahon, in April. Luck, the father of the former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, said he was fired without cause days after the league declared bankruptcy.

The colorful original XFL, begun by the World Wrestling Federation, lasted just one season, in 2001, but is remembered for its nicknames, flamboyant announcers, innovative rules and sometimes prurient halftime entertainment.

The new league kept the name, but promised a back-to-basics approach for the 2020 season with no gimmicks. It did continue to innovate with the rules, offering teams a chance to go for 1, 2 or 3 points after a touchdown.

The league drew an average of about three million viewers in its first week, but the audience was halved by the time it shut down in March. The championship was never awarded, although the Houston Roughnecks were the only undefeated team.

Although the coronavirus was the immediate cause of the league’s shutdown, it had always faced an uphill climb to counter the resources and audience of the N.F.L. The United Football League, the Fall Experimental Football League and the Alliance of American Football all closed down after short runs in recent years.

Pollack spoke of a “100-year brand” before the season in February, which very quickly looked like a poor prediction. The chance of restarting minor league football in the current world environment seems close to zero.

In time, perhaps the Rock can reinvigorate the XFL, though how, where and when remain to be seen.

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