As part of his world tour promoting the Black Adam movie, while in Toronto, XFL Co-Owner Dwayne’ The Rock’ Johnson sat down with David George-Cosh of BNN Bloomberg to talk WWE, ZOA, and his other business ventures. They touched on talks between the XFL and CFL, which came to a close in July 2021 before the CFL kicked off its abbreviated season.
“Those CFL ties remain strong as Johnson approached the league last year to partner with the XFL ahead of its re-launch, including what he described in the interview as “deep-dive discussions” with Canadian businessman Larry Tanenbaum, who holds a 25 per cent stake in Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd. (MLSE), which owns the Toronto Argonauts. “
This friendship has not died since talks with the CFL ended in 2021. According to reports, Johnson and Tanenbaum met while he was in town this week.
“We were all in alliance at that time (in 2021) for some sort of partnership between the XFL and the CFL in the spirit of growing the game because we all love the game of football,” Johnson said. “We got down the line and eventually those conversations started to stall. We all agreed: respectfully, let’s put the pencils down [and] wish each other the best of luck.”
It has been reported that the ‘prairie’ teams of the CFL were less than enthusiastic about partnering with the XFL.
The XFL 2020 season was cut short due to the pandemic, and then owner of the XFL, Vince McMahon, put the league into bankruptcy. Johnson, business partner Dany Garcia, and RedBird Capital Partners purchased the asset out of bankruptcy for $15 million.
The CFL didn’t want to change its three-down rules or partner with a league that had not completed a season. CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie acknowledged the talks were helpful for the Canadian Football League. They eventually partnered with Genius Sports to help grow the three down game.
“This partnership will help facilitate the CFL’s growth ambitions, expanding its audience in the U.S., while extending its reach into new international markets. Genius Sports will help the CFL to capitalize on the growth of the North American sports betting market, maximizing revenue and engagement opportunities.”
Ambrosie did keep the door open in a statement at the time.
“While we remain open to finding new ways to work together in the future, we and our XFL counterparts have jointly decided not to pursue any formal arrangements at this time.”
Due to NDA’s signed at the time, it is unknown what happened with the XFL and CFL discussion or even how they got started and with whom. It seems like, based on these statements and what we know. MLSE and the XFL had a plan. Other CFL teams, however, were not buying.
The CFL is getting close to its playoffs. Black Adam will hit theaters on October 20. The XFL draft is expected to take place November 16th and 17th, with kick-off one week after the Super Bowl.
Video Where he talks about the XFL.
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