Vince McMahon was adamant Johnny Manziel would not be part of the XFL, ordering the league's Commissioner and CEO Oliver Luck to keep him out of the football league, per Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic.
McMahon is currently countersuing Luck over breach of contract, claiming the commissioner disobeyed orders to not allow players with bad backgrounds. Though the lawsuit is focused on receiver Antonio Callaway, the pursuit of Manziel was highlighted as another example of the two sides' disagreements.
“How long R U going to play this game Oliver? U know there is NO CHANCE IN HELL for Manziel to play for us," McMahon sent in a text. "I will NOT change my mind. So what’s Ur plan??"
As Luck later revealed, the public discussion was a marketing ploy.
"Vince—we have no intention of signing him, none whatsoever. We’re just milking the story to stay in the news," he responded.
When McMahon restarted the XFL, he instituted strict rules on player behavior that included no players with a criminal record and no kneeling for the national anthem.
Manziel pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in 2012 after being arrested following a fight in College Station, Texas.
He also was investigated for alleged domestic battery against his girlfriend in 2016 but reached an agreement to have the charges dismissed once he completed an anger management course, attended a domestic violence impact panel and participated in a substance-abuse program.
The Heisman Trophy winner initially showed excitement for the XFL, saying it would be a "great opportunity" if he could reunite with coach June Jones. He also supported the league on Twitter:
Luck indicated at the time Manziel was eligible for the league but it was up to the coaches to put him on their rosters.
"If eight guys say, ‘we’d like that guy in the league,’ we’ll put him in the league. Or put him in the draft pool," the commissioner told Tom Schad of USA Today in 2019. "Whether teams draft him, that’s up to the individual head coaches."
It now appears the quarterback never had an opportunity to join the league.
Luck was fired and later filed a lawsuit against McMahon for the remaining $23.8 million on his contract. McMahon has since sold the XFL to a group led by Dwayne Johnson.
Manziel signed on to play for Fan Controlled Football last month.