1 Way the XFL Isn’t so Different From the NFL

Vince McMahon’s XFL begins play in 2020. It’s yet another in a long line of alternative football leagues that have popped up in the last few decades (including the first iteration of the XFL that debuted about 20 years ago). This league will vary greatly from the NFL, but there’s one key way in which the two leagues are incredibly similar. 

The birth of the new XFL 

In January 2018, McMahon announced he was bringing back the XFL, the league he launched in partnership with NBC in the early 2000s. In an interview with ESPN, McMahon stated he would be the sole funding source for the venture

“I wanted to do this since the day we stopped the other one,” McMahon told ESPN in an exclusive interview. “A chance to do it with no partners, strictly funded by me, which would allow me to look in the mirror and say, ‘You were the one who screwed this up,’ or ‘You made this thing a success.'”

Unlike the original XFL, the new league will focus more on football and less on the sports entertainment aspect. McMahon has said games will be faster, and players will be barred from taking stances on political issues before and during games. The league will also refuse to employ any player with a criminal record. This year the league released the names and logos for each of its teams. The league will kick off in early 2020 with games on both ESPN and Fox Sports networks. 

What does the standard XFL contract look like? 

The level of play won't be the same, but the XFL is just like the NFL in one way.
Aaron Murray is part of the revamped XFL. | Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pro Football Talk got its hands on an XFL contract. Mike Florio, who runs the site and is a former attorney, provided an analysis of the sample contract. Here are some of the provisions for each XFL contract

  • First, the document is, according to an XFL memo accompanying the contract, ‘non-negotiable.’
  • The contract specifies a salary of $1,040 per week, with an anticipated gross amount of $27,040. It also promises a $1,685 payment for each game played and $2,222 for each win.
  • Players get no royalties for merchandise sold by the XFL, including presumably jerseys and other items bearing their names.
  • Fourth, the document permits the player to leave for the NFL, but only after the end of his team’s season. The XFL’s championship game will be played on April 26, one day after the NFL draft concludes.
  • Fifth, the contract includes a broad waiver of rights to pursue legal claims in court, with an agreement to arbitrate disputes and a promise to enter into no class actions.

As Florio points out, because the XFL has no competition after the folding of the Alliance of American Football (AAF), the XFL’s approach to contracts is essentially “take it or leave it.” 

One way the XFL isn’t so different from the NFL

A major difference between XFL and NFL contracts is the value. Per the information above, XFL gross salaries are $27,040 for the season. In 2018, the average NFL salary was $2.1 million. Obviously, the level of talent on display contributes to the difference — XFL rosters are generally made up of players who either could not or have yet to make it in the NFL. 

One similarity between the XFL and the NFL, however, is how much control the teams have over the contracts. 

In the NFL, contracts are non-guaranteed, at least in part. In the XFL, the only guarantee the players can count on is that they won’t be able to push back or negotiate for more money. It’s not an ideal situation for the player, but unfortunately for many in the league, it may be their only option. 

The XFL recently blocked the Detroit Lions from signing Josh Johnson, one of their players, for the rest of the 2019 NFL season. So it’s apparent the contracts are ironclad and will keep players locked into it until the end of the season. The fact that the league has most, if not all, of the power makes the XFL and NFL nearly identical.