On Thursday, WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon officially announced that he would be starting a new pro football league under the old XFL moniker. During his presser, McMahon explained that he hopes the new league — which launches in 2020 — will attempt to cater more to the fans with faster paced games and higher quality of play.
McMahon also said that an emphasis of the league will be less focus on social issues while the game is being played. When asked specifically about the national anthem, McMahon said that there would be rules about the national anthem that would be very clear to the players in the new league.
While McMahon didn’t specifically say that the league would require players to stand for the anthem, he did say that he believes standing and honoring the anthem is an important tradition.
The statement from McMahon comes after player protests became a hot button NFL issue in 2016 when then San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started taking a knee during the pre-game presentations of the national anthem. Kaepernick says his protests were an attempt to raise awareness on racial and social issues, but controversy erupted as some fans felt that Kaepernick was being disrespectful by kneeling. That controversy came to a head when President Donald Trump said in September that he would “fire” players that took a knee during the anthem.
When asked about Kaepernick’s potential inclusion in the XFL, McMahon said that any player would be welcome as long as they abide by the rules laid out by the league. Kaepernick has been unsigned by the NFL ever since he became a free agent after the 2016 season.
McMahon’s announcement of the XFL comes several weeks after rumors that he would again be taking interest in professional football. McMahon’s first attempt at the XFL came back in 2001, where the joint WWE-venture folded after just one season. This time around, McMahon emphasized that WWE would have no involvement in the new league, and that he is funding the $100 million startup funds out of his own pocket.