The XFL officially relaunched this weekend, kicking off its season with four nationally televised games across two days.
Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, however, wasn’t a part of it.
That’s not because he didn’t want to be, either. According to XFL commissioner Oliver Luck, the two sides met to discuss a deal to get Kaepernick playing in the league, however his salary demands were way too high.
“We gave it some thought,” Luck said, via NPR. “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.”
Luck continued, saying that he “spoke with [Kaepernick’s] representative, and the salary requirements that were broached in that conversation were exorbitant and certainly out of our range.”
“That was well over a year ago, so I don’t know what kind of shape Colin is in,” Luck said, via NPR. “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 pretty much a requisite for our job.”
Now in Luck’s defense, the XFL is just one week into its inaugural season and is on a tight financial leash. If it were to overpay certain players, like Kaepernick, the league could run out of funding and fail before it really takes off — just like the Alliance of American Football did, which went bankrupt in the middle of its first season last year.
Undoubtedly, that would be seen as a widespread failure.
Yet when the XFL was founded, it was done so with a promise that no player will kneel during the national anthem — the thing that Kaepernick was blackballed from the NFL for doing.
“Players will stand and respect the flag,” Luck said on the Bloomberg Business of Sports podcast, via the Washington Post, adding that “there’ll be consequences” for players who don’t.
Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since the 2016 season, when he started kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustices in the United States. He participated in a workout for NFL teams in November, though it didn’t go as planned, and commissioner Roger Goodell said soon after that “we’ve moved on.” At this point, a return to the league anytime soon looks unlikely.
The decision not to have Kaepernick in the XFL could very well be strictly monetary. The XFL folding early due to financial error would be a major embarrassment, to say the least, and it knows that.
But given Luck’s comments about players protesting in the league, it’s hard to believe that is the case.
“Players have numerous opportunities to express themselves with all the platforms that exist today,” Luck said, via NPR. “So standing for the national anthem we believe is a part of their responsibility as players in our league. But we think it’s important to have that requirement for players.
“We think it’s important. We think it’s part of what we as a league should do.”
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