Once the NBA suspended its season on March 11, other leagues including the National Football League (NFL) and XFL followed with updates of their own activities due to COVID-19.
The XFL issued a statement saying, “Currently, the XFL will not be playing its regular-season games. However, all players will be paid their base pay and benefits for the 2020 regular season. All XFL ticket holders will be issued refunds or credit toward future games. The XFL is committed to playing a full season in 2021 and future years.” In hindsight, canceling the XFL makes more sense now, as an unidentified player from the Seattle Dragons has tested positive for the coronavirus. The player is now being quarantined.
The XFL was looking to revive itself this season as a potential major football competitor to the NFL, after initially folding in 2001 following only one full season. Securing around three million viewers during its first week of action, Feb. 8-9, the XFL seemed to have a promising future for its inaugural season. A different style of football was introduced as kickoffs became safer, and instead of kicking a point after touchdown, teams could go for one, two or three points after scoring a touchdown. Even though the XFL’s return was cut short, this season displayed how exciting the league’s new format can be for football fans. Instead of waiting for the NFL’s return in August, fans in the future will now have the option to watch a different football league after the conclusion of the Super Bowl in February.
Reacting to the XFL’s cancellation, Seattle Dragons quarterback BJ Daniels wrote on Twitter: “An opportunity is all I’ve ever wanted! I thank God for what he has already done!”
New York Guardians quarterback Matt McGloin thanked the XFL for giving him the opportunity to play in front of his son for the first time, calling it “the greatest achievement of my career.” He also thanked the Guardians along with XFL fans for making his return to football enjoyable.
L.A. Wildcats quarterback Josh Johnson optimistically wrote: “Hopefully things get better faster and what started as suspended could just end up being postponed but with the limited info I agree with the move. Better safe than sorry.”
XFL players can now sign with NFL or Canadian Football League (CFL) teams once their exit physicals are complete. Although the NFL season isn’t going on right now, the league cancelled its annual meeting, which was scheduled for March 29 to April 1. However, the NFL is currently not delaying the start of the new league year, with the free agency period starting at 4 p.m. Wednesday. Also, with the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) passing 1,019 to 959, the coronavirus may have had an impact on the NFL’s future for the next 10 years. With the new CBA, the regular season is extended to 17 games, and now seven teams from the American Football Conference (AFC) and National Football Conference (NFC) will make the playoffs, with only the top seed from each conference receiving a first-round bye.
New Orleans Saints punter Thomas Morstead wrote on Twitter: “Our union is in a position to secure economic certainty in a very uncertain climate. The sports world is not immune to global events as we can all see.”
Reacting to the new CBA passing, Kansas City Chiefs running back Damien Wilson wrote on Twitter, “we folded as a group.”
Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron, echoing Wilson’s displeasure, wrote: “Can’t believe we agreed to that lol. We can only play this game for so long and y’all didn’t want everything we could get out of it? Smfh. 2030 y’all do better.”
Due to COVID-19, the draft process is going to be very different this year, as the NFL has moved all draft interactions online and canceled all in-person college player visits — including college pro-days. Many teams have restricted coach and scout travel, and both the HBCU Combine and Regional Combine Invitational were canceled as well. Even though communication has been moved online, teams can only talk to players for a maximum of one hour, three times a week.
Without the face-to-face meetings, NFL teams may not be able to get all the answers they are looking for when it comes to certain draft prospects, such as their medical history or questions about their personalities. The NFL draft, which is scheduled to be held April 23-25 in Las Vegas, will still be televised, but no fans will be allowed to attend the draft. All public events in Las Vegas related to the draft are canceled, and because several employees at MGM Resorts International have tested positive for COVID-19, over 150 eateries will be closed.
As a football fan, I’m happy to see the NFL and XFL are putting player and fan safety first. Although fans won’t be able to attend the NFL draft, I’m excited to see that it will still be televised. Also, I’m happy to see former New England Patriot Rob Gronkowski make his WWE debut this week on SmackDown. The XFL will make a return in 2021, but for now, football fans can look forward to a crazy NFL free agency, with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady not expected to return to the team, and with Houston Texans star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins being traded to the Arizona Cardinals.
This article is in a 4-part series about coronavirus in the sports world. Don’t miss the other three throughout this week.