The second iteration of the XFL went out in a blaze of glory just like the first, and the fallout continues from the league shutting down operations at the start of the pandemic. Former XFL commissioner Oliver Luck was fired in April and just two days before the league filed for bankruptcy. Luck then sued Vince McMahon two weeks later for wrongful termination and McMahon has fired back by countersuing Luck this week.
The countersuit, which was filed in Connecticut and was obtained by USA Today Sports, claims that Luck defied McMahon’s orders when it came to hiring personnel for the league. When the XFL was restarted, McMahon said that the player pool would include “quality football players with good character.” However, Luck allowed former NFL receiver Antonio Callaway to be a part of that player pool despite his past character issues.
Callaway was suspended for sexual assault while in college, cited for driving with a suspended license a year later and was suspended 10 games by the NFL for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. While Callaway did sign with the XFL’s Tampa Bay Vipers, he got hurt before he was able to play in a game. However, the league still had to pay him worker’s compensation as well as pay his signing bonus, both of which McMahon is suing Luck for. McMahon is asking for $572,792.10 which covers Callaway’s contract, the worker’s compensation owed to him and Luck’s personal compensation.
“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,” McMahon wrote in the suit, indicating that the WWE CEO had considered moving on from Luck prior to April and prior to the league’s bankruptcy filing.
Other examples listed in the countersuit of Luck defying McMahon’s orders regarding players with character issues include Martavis Bryant and Johnny Manziel. Bryant was suspended three times by the NFL while Manziel was arrested in college and then later indicted for assault charges after a fight with his ex-girlfriend. While neither player ever joined the XFL, Luck reportedly floated their names to get more media attention for the league, and bringing up the name of Manziel prompted this text exchange between McMahon and Luck:
McMahon: “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??”
Luck: “Vince ? we have no intention of signing him, none whatsoever. We’re just milking the story to stay in the news. I’m happy to categorically rule him out but both [XFL President] Jeffrey [Pollack] and I think it is worthwhile to milk it until the showcases are finished (July 12). At that point we can say he doesn’t fit into our plans.”
Also in the suit, McMahon accused Luck of leaving the league’s Connecticut headquarters to return to his home in Indiana on March 13. That was the day after the league cancelled the remainder of the season due to the pandemic. After March 13, Luck and McMahon had no direct contact and McMahon claims Luck missed several league meetings.
“Luck’s actions during the crisis caused by the COVID pandemic certainly did not meet my expectations for a Commissioner and chief executive of a sports league charged with devoting substantially all of his business time to the performance of his duties to the XFL at a time of existential threat,” McMahon wrote.
“It’s 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,” counsel for Luck wrote in an email to The Athletic.
The XFL was purchased by a group led by The Rock for $15 million in August. Then in October, the league announced that the league would return to play for the 2022 season.