The XFL returns next February, but the hype around the second-coming of the pro football league — which folded after one season back in 2001 — is at an all-time high. Following the bankruptcy and ultimate folding of the Alliance of American Football (AAF), the spotlight’s on the XFL now to deliver a high-quality product for football fans to get their fix once the NFL season ends.
As most of us know, the XFL is touting itself as the anti-NFL, bragging about some of its insane rules and high octane entertainment. Vince McMahon and the new commissioner of the league, Oliver Luck — yep, Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck’s dad — are all about bringing back old school football, with big hits and drama with every snap. Can they do it? Possibly, especially now that it has inked a big deal with ESPN, ABC and FOX networks to televise the games for fans.
While it’s still to be determined how the new version of the XFL will actually look, one thing that they’re trying to do is show they’re more progressive than the NFL. At least that’s what the aforementioned Luck hinted at during an interview with SI.com when asked if the league would be testing players for marijuana. Luck’s response was simply that the XFL would “prefer not to test for marijuana.” That’s big news.
That would mean players like Josh Gordon, who has been in and out of the NFL’s substance abuse program, would most likely be eligible to still play in the XFL. Although, according to the SI.com piece, Oliver Luck did say he “has not thought about how the XFL would handle a player like Josh Gordon.” But, if the league allows players to use weed, wouldn’t Gordon be able to play?
Now, from a business perspective, this is actually genius. Not only would the XFL act as the guinea pig for the NFL, and other sports leagues, as the one pro sports league that sees if marijuana truly impacts player performance, but it’s also a way to almost force the NFL into adapting its own rules. Think about Gordon as an example. Should he be booted from the NFL, play in the XFL while using marijuana and then be called up by an NFL team, he wouldn’t pass the protocol to be eligible to play given the strict testing, leaving the XFL as his only option to play pro football.
The XFL served as an interesting test for many things during its first go-round, with the broadcasts innovating how games were shown to viewers. Could the league do something similar for more progressive issues like athletes using marijuana without being punished? It sure sounds like it might be.