Just under a month after the upstart XFL announced they were suspending operations due to the coronavirus pandemic, the league shuttered its doors completely on Friday, April 10. Most XFL employees have been laid off, and the league has no public plans to return in 2021.
XFL president Jeffrey Pollack read a prepared statement in a video call to BattleHawks employees on Friday morning informing them of the league’s decision, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Players and all employees received their last XFL paychecks on April 10, according to a statement in an email to league employees. Around the league, team employees began to see warning signs this week, when a number of purchased season tickets for 2021 were beginning to be refunded.
The news of the league’s operations suspending hits hardest here in the STL area, where the BattleHawks had become the city’s darling almost overnight. The BattleHawks had the highest average attendance in the XFL, team officials even opened the upper deck of The Dome. The team was expecting over fifty thousand fans in the building for their home game against Los Angeles on March 21.
The BattleHawks showed St. Louis they cared, and the city repaid its gratitude tenfold. Demand for BattleHawks tickets held firm in every game, with all tickets selling out on Ticketmaster, and resales on Stubhub and similar sites went for three to five times face value.
Official BattleHawks merchandise completely sold out on the XFL’s website, and the few Dick’s Sporting Goods locations in the area with official XFL merchandise were also quickly wiped clean. A shirt, hat, or jersey of the fledgling football franchise was the hottest fashion item in the area for the first three months of 2020.
Fans of football in St. Louis finally felt that a wrong had been righted by the arrival of the BattleHawks. The BattleHawks were their chance to prove that they weren’t the ones who made the Rams leave. The football fans of the city have always poured their hearts into its teams, even when the guy running the team wouldn’t put that same effort into winning football games.
“The STL/Battlehawks relationship was like a blind date set up by a friend.” As 101 ESPN Radio’s Michelle Smallmon put it on Twitter. “Had promise, but no expectations. Our connection was immediate & pure. We fell hard. It’s like they say, when you know, you know. Devastated to see it end. They will always be the one that got away. #KaKaw”
After Stan Kroenke and the Rams hung the city out to dry, the XFL and the BattleHawks made it a point to instill the team into the fabric of the community, to love St. Louis. Team officials and BattleHawks players made it out to high school football games last year to spread the word, the team hosted numerous fan meetup nights at bars and restaurants all across the St. Louis metro area.
Many BattleHawks players voiced their feelings about playing in front of STL’s passionate fans when the league first suspended a month ago. Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, who has since signed an NFL contract with the Kansas City Chiefs, put out a video on Twitter where he thanked the St. Louis BattleHawk faithful for “rocking The Dome” for their two home games. The BattleHawks had a home-field advantage that no other XFL team could touch.
There isn’t a good ending to this. It isn’t just the city losing a football team, it’s hundreds of athletes losing a well-paying job in a sport that only offers good money to the absolute cream of the crop. Furthermore, its an entire league of non-football employees now without a job in a quite uncertain time in the world.
The forcefully truncated 2020 XFL season will be joked about as if the teams, players, or fans were responsible, and not an unprecedented pandemic and the massive global financial fallout caused by it.
And now, the BattleHawks aren’t ours anymore. It stings. It stings just as much as losing the Rams did five years ago.