There is no one factor more vital to an upstart football league than to bring in name recognition. If you have names of players that people actually know, they will tune in to watch. That is especially true during the league’s infancy, before they have the opportunity to create their own ‘name’ players.
The second-most important factor, and really the biggest thing for any football league, is to have a high level of play at the quarterback position, at least relative to the quality of the defenses that he has to go up against. The Alliance of American Football had a few quarterbacks who were good enough, but most were not.
The XFL has only played one week so far, so it’s hard to determine what they have. Cardale Jones, a somewhat significant name, had a good first game. Landry Jones may make his debut this weekend. PJ Walker, a former Temple quarterback, was named the ‘Star of the Week’ for the Houston Roughnecks.
But what if one of their teams were quarterbacked by Colin Kaepernick? Say what you want about him, but you can’t deny that alone would have produced a lot of eyes on television sets. XFL commissioner Oliver Luck recently said that the league did talk to Kaepernick about playing.
“We gave it some thought. We have some pretty significant salary restrictions, you know”, he said in an interview with NPR. “We’re a start-up league, so we want to make sure that we can be fiscally responsible and fiscally prudent. And the, you know, salary requirements that some folks, you know, shared with us were in our case exorbitant, so we, you know, couldn’t go down that path”.
It’s important to note that, in the past, Kaepernick has been written about as demanding such and such a salary for his services to play in, for example, the AAF, something like $10 million, a claim that he and his representatives would later deny ever making.
Luck was pressed on this question, asked directly if they approached him and discussed salary. “I’m saying that we spoke with his representative, and the salary requirements that were broached in that conversation were exorbitant and certainly out of our range”, he said. He also added that this was over a year ago.
The commissioner later went on to claim that he doesn’t know what kind of shape Kaepernick is in, though he’s surely forgetting that the NFL held a workout for him—or tried to, before he held his own—during which those in attendance did admit that he was in shape.
It should also be pointed out that, in the same interview, Luck also made it very clear that the league is opposed to player protests like kneeling for the national anthem. “We think it’s part of what we as a league should do”, he said.