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Former XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck Sues Vince McMahon for Wrongful Termination

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2020

FILE - In this Feb. 25, 2019, file photo, XFL Football Commissioner Oliver Luck talks to reporters before introducing former NFL football quarterback Jim Zorn as the head coach for Seattle's XFL football team, in Seattle. Oliver Luck’s first year as the XFL’s commissioner has mostly been confined to the office and getting the league’s framework set up. The next couple months though are what Luck refers to as the fun part of preparing for next year’s return. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

Former XFL commissioner Oliver Luck has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against WWE chairman Vince McMahon, according to The Athletic's Daniel Kaplan

The XFL ended its 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the initial expectation it would return in 2021. However, the league suspended operations April 10 and then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy three days later.

According to Kaplan, the language in the lawsuit indicates McMahon may have fired Luck for cause: "Mr. Luck wholly disputes and rejects the allegations set forth in the Termination Letter and contends they are pretextual and devoid of merit."

ESPN's Kevin Seifert shared a statement from McMahon's attorney about the lawsuit:

"Oliver Luck's services as Commissioner and CEO of the XFL were terminated by a letter sent to him on Apr. 9, 2020 which explained the reasons for the termination. As to the lawsuit he filed, his allegations will be disputed and the position of Mr. McMahon will be set forth in our response to this lawsuit."

Placing any level of blame on Luck for the XFL's rapid demise would seemingly be unfair unless more information is unearthed as part of the lawsuit.

The league appeared to be laying the foundations for sustained success. The quality of play didn't match the NFL but was good enough to keep fans entertained. Television viewership and attendance were trending downward yet didn't crater to the extent they did during the XFL's first run in 2001.

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In general, the XFL was positioning itself as a fun diversion during the NFL's offseason.

XFL @xfl2020

GET YOU A LEAGUE COMMISSIONER WHO CONTRIBUTES A CUP TO THE GIANT BEER SNAKE. OLIVER LUCK F O R E V E R. THIS LEAGUE. https://t.co/V41n5ndpNQ

The rise of a worldwide pandemic isn't something anybody could've predicted, and the league apparently didn't have the cash reserves to sustain itself during a prolonged lull.

The specific damages sought by Luck are unknown and many of the contract details in the lawsuit have been redacted, per Kaplan. According to Sports Business Journal's Michael Smith, Luck was slated to earn at least $20 million from his contract, and his payout could've exceeded $30 based on incentives.

Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio noted that due to the XFL's bankruptcy, suing McMahon directly might give Luck a better chance of being financially compensated.

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