The XFL debuted this week with limited star power. Which could make it harder for the XFL to sustain an initial burst of rubbernecking from sports audiences who currently have limited sports to audience.
One star player that isn’t in the XFL (or the NFL) is Colin Kaepernick. XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck recently explained the resurrected spring league’s position on Kaepernick in an interview with NPR.
“We gave it some thought,” Luck said of the possibility of signing Kaepernick, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “We have some pretty significant salary restrictions, you know. We’re a start-up league, so we want to make sure that we can be fiscally responsible and fiscally prudent. And the salary requirements that some folks shared with us were in our case exorbitant, so we couldn’t go down that path. . . . We spoke with his representative, and the salary requirements that were broached in that conversation were exorbitant and certainly out of our range.”
It was reported last year that Kaepernick wanted $20 million from the now-defunct AAF and from the XFL. That’s $2 million per game, which is what top NFL quarterbacks make on a 16-game season.
While that’s a lot, the question becomes whether the XFL would make more than $20 million by having Kaepernick on the roster. Apart from the simple dollars-in, dollars-out analysis that would be driven by tickets and jerseys and other merchandise, the publicity that the league would generate with Kaepernick on a roster has value, too. As argued last year, Kaepernick ultimately would be worth the $20 million to a football league looking to maximize revenue and interest.
So what if Kaepernick were to drop his salary demands?
“I don’t know,” Luck said. “That was well over a year ago, so I don’t know what kind of shape, you know, Colin is in. And, you know, we haven’t followed that because obviously, again, we want the best players who are interested in playing in our league. That’s, you know, pretty much a requisite for our job.”
To be interested in playing in the XFL, Kaepernick would have to be willing to abandon his anthem protests, since the XFL (unlike the NFL) requires all players to stand for the anthem. But there’s no reason to think it will ever get to that point; the XFL is being careful when it comes to money spent — which means it won’t be spending significant money on available professional players like Kaepernick or college players like Trevor Lawrence, who for the right price surely would have considered giving up playing football for free for another year while he awaits eligibility for the NFL draft.