The XFL won't play in 2021, the league announced Thursday, and is targeting a return in the spring of 2022. Co-owner Dwayne Johnson tweeted the news Thursday morning, and the league followed with an official announcement.
Johnson, longtime business partner Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital Partners completed their purchase of the league from Vince McMahon for $15 million in August. At the time, Garcia said the group was considering a 2021 season in a one-city bubble structure. Garcia said at the time that "those discussions are active."
Ultimately, XFL president and chief operating officer Jeffrey Pollack said in a statement, the league did not want to rush its return.
"For the love of football and for the safety of our players and fans, we'll be back on the field in 2022," Pollack said. "The opportunity in front of us, with our new ownership, is simply too big to rush back. We want to do this properly with care and thought for everyone who loves football, especially our players, coaches, partners and fans."
In a letter sent Thursday to thank players who participated in the 2020 season, and obtained by ESPN via a source, the XFL wrote: "We are going to take our time to come back and ensure that we build a league of culture, passion, and purpose for the benefit of our players, coaches, staff, partners, and fans. And, given the continuing uncertainty of the public health environment, a 2022 re-launch will help us provide a safe gameday experience for everyone together."
Of the letter, Pollack said: "More than anything, we wanted to say thank you to the players for their contributions last season and to let them know they are appreciated and seen by us."
McMahon laid off nearly the entire XFL workforce in April prior to declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Most of the former employees, including coaches, remain unpaid creditors in the proceedings, and it would have taken a massive scale-up of workforce -- both on the field and off -- to be ready to play in its February-April window in the sports calendar. In an email sent Thursday to some former employees, the company wrote that "hiring will likely gain momentum in early 2021."
Former commissioner Oliver Luck, meanwhile, remains enmeshed in a wrongful termination lawsuit with McMahon worth $23.8 million.
The XFL played half of its original 10-game inaugural season in 2020 before suspending its season because of the coronavirus pandemic. McMahon invested approximately $200 million in the league, which he resurrected in 2018 following a 17-year hiatus.