XFL: Details emerge that spell out fractured relationship between McMahon and Luck
Legal proceedings are akin to a divorce, where love and respect gets replaced by accusations and conjecture.
Since details of the XFL bankruptcy revealed that Commissioner Oliver Luck had been fired just days before the league closed its doors, there has been murmurs of the depth of a fractured relationship between Luck and Vince McMahon. On Friday, Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic revealed some of these details that had previously been rumors were now outlined in a legal proceeding precipitated by McMahon.
Up to now, the details of the relationship has only been in the form of whispers, especially since legal proceedings began almost immediately after Luck parted ways with the XFL. With Luck bringing forward a lawsuit asking to be paid the $23.8 million still owing on his contract, any remarks about the reasons Luck had been let go were discovered only in court documents.
However, a countersuit has now been filed, with McMahon asking for more than half a million dollars. This has resulted in more muck being raked.
In fact, in his claims, McMahon makes it clear he considered firing Luck even before the XFL season began in February 2020, and part of it was over the hiring of wide receiver Anthony Callaway.
“Luck knowingly and deliberately deceived me — repeatedly — throughout the Callaway situation, which made me question whether I could continue to trust Luck to be the Commissioner and CEO of the XFL. At that time, I did not want the negative publicity which would result if I terminated his contract at the same time our inaugural season was about to begin. Instead, I decided to factor the Callaway situation into my overall assessment of Luck’s job performance at the end of the season knowing that I would still have several months to make a decision on Luck’s future before the $2 million bonus would come due on June 30, 2020.” – Vince McMahon as per The Athletic
Vince McMahon had previously made it known that he did not want players with criminal records, and this even extended to those with a jaded background such as Callaway. When Callaway was hired, people wondered if the XFL (McMahon) had relaxed its policy, but we later learned that this was far from the truth.
After Callaway was hired, McMahon ordered Luck to fire him. Unfortunately, this was not done prior to Callaway injuring himself, making the XFL liable for the player’s contract and medical costs.
Now we see the details of how McMahon claimed Luck lied to him about why he let Callaway remain on the practice field on Jan. 29, 2020, when the player injured his knee.
A disputed sequence of events has Luck saying Tampa Bay coach Marc Trestman wanted to break the news to Callaway after practice. In a legal declaration, Trestman claimed Luck was the one who decided to leave Callaway on the field.
In his countersuit, McMahon demands that Luck pay for the alleged mistake.
“The evidence further establishes that Alpha incurred damages of at least $572,792.10 as a result of Luck’s breaches of contract and breaches of fiduciary duties, including $158,950.63 paid to Antonio Callaway under his contract, $29,226.09 in worker’s compensation payments made to Callaway, and $384,615.38 paid to Luck under his Employment Contract for the period from March 14, 2020 through his termination on April 9, 2020.” – Vince McMahon countersuit as per The Athletic
To give further weight to his countersuit, McMahon has tried to prove that Luck had a history of hiring players with black marks to their careers.
One such player is not named by the suit, but is only referred to as “Player A.” The suit describes that player as one “whose team practiced at the university where he had been banned for a sexual assault charge.”
McMahon also contends that he had to forbid Luck from hiring Johnny Manziel back in June 2019.
At the time, Manziel was loosely being touted as a quarterback prospect for the league, especially after a recently hired head coach, June Jones, went on record to say that he would be excited to have Manziel on his squad. Apparently, all the Manziel talk incensed McMahon.
In his countersuit, McMahon wrote that in June 2019 he texted Luck the following:
“How long R U going to play this game Oliver? U know there is NO CHANCE IN HELL for Manziel to play for us. I will NOT change my mind. So what’s Ur plan??” – Vince McMahon as per The Athletic
Luck’s response was to explain that he had no intention of signing Manziel, and that he and XFL President Jeffrey Pollack had decided to let the story continue, and milk the publicity of the Manziel rumors until the Summer Showcases were finished. Afterward, they would simply claim that Manziel did not fit in.
In retrospect, this is exactly how it went. In fact, June Jones’s ardor to hire Manziel also went away, as he was likely told, despite his wishes, the quarterback was never coming to the XFL.
Oliver Luck’s lawyers have responded to the countersuit, calling it, “Another lame attempt by Mr. McMahon’s attorneys to deflect attention from the fact that Mr. McMahon continues to refuse to pay the $24 million that he owes Oliver Luck.”
Of course, that is where we are today. On the surface this is another legal move featuring a near billionaire refusing to pay money to a multi-millionaire, and vice-versa. However, XFL followers know these lawsuits represent a darker side of a league they knew and loved.
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. pic.twitter.com/V41n5ndpNQ
— XFL (@XFL2022) March 8, 2020
When the XFL was operating, it must have angered McMahon that Luck was beloved by XFL fans and players alike. Keep in mind that this was by design. Luck was meant to be the clean face of the new XFL, especially when McMahon still represented the failure of the 2001 version of the league. So, Luck was hired to represent a new version of the league, and he did this with aplomb by shaking hands, talking about his love for players, positively evangelizing over the XFL’s differences, and even contributing to building a cup snake in Washington’s Audi field.
Needless to say, building up Luck as the XFL’s hero was done very successfully. Now, the dragging of Luck through the muck continues to surprise many XFL followers. But, the legal proceedings are akin to a divorce, where love and respect gets replaced by accusations and conjecture.
Today, the XFL looks forward to a third version of the league, after being bought by a group led by Dany Garcia and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. They plan to kickoff league play in 2022, and undoubtedly are counting on leaving behind any darkness that remains of the 2020 version of the XFL, as the new owners seem to be focused on the league’s success.