Willingly or not, Politics have played a part in the XFL’s unique history, Will XFL Owner Dwayne Johnson’s recent political endorsement impact the league’s support moving forward?
“The XFL should not politicize their league,” “Keep it about football,” “Don’t divide your potential fan base by declaring allegiance to one side over the other.”
In all honesty, there’s trepidation as I type this. The debate before writing this article was whether or not I should take a shot of Teremana Tequila beforehand.
When it comes to politics, today’s society dictates that you are damned all around, damned if you don’t take a stance and damned if you do. No liquid courage necessary so here goes.
No topics are more divisive than politics and religion. Merely addressing these issues opens up potential scrutiny. Most people tread carefully in this department to avoid making enemies or out of fear of being misunderstood. For many, taking any position translates to a declaration of war. Like last night’s Presidential Debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, when politics are involved, things can get ugly quickly.
For better or worse, the XFL dating back to its origin has always had some political message fueling it. It may not have been the sole reason for the league’s existence, but politics played a part. Sometimes by default.
The original XFL was the anti-establishment sports league. It was as politically incorrect as it could get. In many ways, XFL 2001 mirrored the times it was living. A lot like the WWF at the time, it was a middle finger to the status quo. It glorified sex, violence, and being unfiltered in your face.
As crazy as it sounds, many loved the original XFL’s bold style. Like popular culture at the time, the league’s political statement was rebelling against the norms of society.
The XFL had non-traditional team names, hard hits, unconventional rules, player nicknames on jerseys, and sexy cheerleaders. XFL 2001 turned off a lot of traditionalists and the mainstream. You could argue that the league’s political stance limited its overall appeal.
Many would argue that the idea for the XFL’s return in 2020 was born the moment Colin Kaepernick took a knee. Like it or not, many were turned off by what was perceived by some as disrespecting the United States, law enforcement, and it’s military.
At a time when Barack Obama was in office. The issue of police brutality in the U.S. had risen again to the forefront. See Eric Garner’s case in New York. Colin Kaepernick decided to make a statement.
A few years back, the NFL took a hit in the ratings and public perception when Kapernick’s demonstrations started and became the media focus of their league. Some people were upset, and they expressed their anger to the NFL. The owners and front office took notice and tried to downplay Kaepernick. The NFL skipped broadcasting the National Anthem in many markets as a result.
The NFL, out of fear, decided to sweep the issue under the rug. Things have changed a lot in 2020. The NFL is trying to save face and, in a public relations strategy, has adopted an entirely new stance to quiet the anger levied against them for not addressing the issue years ago.
When Vince McMahon announced the relaunch of the XFL in 2018. The feeling was that he was going to position the league as being patriotic. In the league’s contracts, similar to NBA players at the time, all XFL players were required to stand for the anthem. By having such a rule in place, McMahon sent a political message. Whether the intent to do so existed or not.
For some, XFL 2020 was known as the “MAGA” league. McMahon’s well-publicized friendship with Donald Trump, dating back to when the president was a Democrat, turned people away from the league. Vince McMahon is a polarizing figure, to begin with, but this helped to sway some from supporting his football league.
On the flip side, and it still existed to the present day. Many people who supported the XFL, did so because it was going to be the anti-woke league.
Some just wanted to watch a football league where only the sport was on display and not individual or group belief systems. Sports are seen by many as a form of escapism from the harsh realities of society. They want football to be football. The fear is that the XFL in the future will mirror a vocal segment of society, much as it did back in 2001.
XFL Owners Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia have publicly endorsed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for President and Vice President of the United States.
Some would suggest that the public endorsement of a presidential candidate is a bolder decision than purchasing an entire football league during a pandemic.
It would work both ways if The Rock endorsed Donald Trump. The venom would be similar or worse to the reaction he has received for giving Joe Biden his stamp of approval.
Some social media commenters made a point to say that the Rock’s backing of Biden is proof that he is “finally black”. Imagine how an African American who supports Donald Trump feels when they see that. Not that any offenders would care.
Your fandom of sports or entertainment should not be affected by differences you may have in your political or religious beliefs. Still, it would be naive to think in today’s society, that it doesn’t matter to people because it does.
As a football fan for over three decades, I’ve never watched a game and thought, what a great run by Barry Sanders. I wonder if he is pro-life or in favor of corporate tax cuts. My blind and idiotic love for the New York Jets will not be impacted if Mekhi Becton decides he is against fossil fuel. However, more games with Adam Gase as Head Coach could.
The truth is that when it comes to entire corporations or football teams. Many of the participants in these entities all have different belief systems and candidates that they support politically.
That will be the case for any executives at RedBird Capital, the team or league front offices, the players, coaches, etc. Having an owner with a particular favorite candidate doesn’t trump everyone in the league. (Pardon the pun)
The beauty of sports is that by its very design, it unites people from all backgrounds. The barriers that divide us are intended to and can break down in those settings. A football locker room can be among the best places on earth.
Could the Rock’s political endorsement alienate potential supporters of the XFL? Yes. Should it? No.
The XFL needs to be about what it’s always been about. The players, coaches, fans, and the love of football. Perhaps I am a fool but to borrow a catchphrase from the Rock. When it comes to politics in football. For me, “It doesn’t matter.” The problem is, for some, it does.
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