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Former XFL Player Reacts To League's Closure


As part of his push to reopen the country, President Trump this past week said, quote, "we have to get our sports back," unquote. And, in fact, most American sports leagues are actively considering how and when to start up again safely - but not the XFL. The startup football league relaunched with much fanfare and some juicy television deals. But amid the nearly nationwide shutdown, the league's parent company, Alpha Entertainment, suspended operations, laid off employees, and filed for bankruptcy. And that's a disappointment for the fans who hope to satisfy their football cravings at the end of the NFL season. But it's probably a bigger disappointment for players.

Because of its more lenient regulations, the XFL could accept players who were not yet eligible to play in the NFL. Kenny Robinson was the only player to take advantage of this by leaving college early to play in the XFL. But now, he's projected to be a top NFL draft pick, and he is with us now. Kenny Robinson - welcome. Thanks so much for joining us.

KENNY ROBINSON: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: I guess, let me just start by saying sorry for the disappointment. How are you feeling?

ROBINSON: I'm feeling kind of disappointed, you know. But I'm kind of actually excited, because this is on to a new step in my life where I can focus on life and just actually achieve my long-term goal.

MARTIN: Well, you left college before your junior season to play in the league. I understand that you were at West Virginia University, where you were doing very well. But I think you were suspended - if I have that right - and you were thinking about transferring. So what made you decide to play in the XFL instead?

ROBINSON: Honestly - so I was thinking about transferring - my intentions were to transfer schools this whole time, you know. Just do things the traditional way. My mother - that was her plans for me. And when she had got sick when I had decided that I needed to leave West Virginia, it was just - that was our first thoughts, you know. Just me and her - we talked about it. She just always wanted me to do things the traditional way. So my first thoughts were to go back to school. So I was probably going to go to Florida or Marshall University, and ended up - as time went on - ended up just thinking, you know - just the XFL ended up being the best option for me.

MARTIN: Well, I'm sorry to hear that your mom was sick. I mean, that had to have been - I mean, you know - frightening under any circumstances.

ROBINSON: Yes, definitely. It was - it's very hard on my family.

MARTIN: What made the XFL attractive to you?

ROBINSON: Just the opportunity, honestly. As I sat down and weighed both options, the XFL - they were giving me the best opportunity possible, honestly. They were giving me a chance to play ball at a high level as much as I always wanted to. Also - but they took in consideration of what my family wanted - and my mother - which was to go back to school. So they put in my contract that they would pay for my - pay for me to take classes and all, and things like that, you know. And it was just a better chance to develop myself and just, you know, bet on myself - just take a chance.

MARTIN: Do you mind if I ask - how is your mom?

ROBINSON: So she's cancer free right now, so she's definitely doing better. But she's still recovering from her two past strokes. So throughout the process with her - in her cancer, she had two strokes. So she just has to recover from them - just get her strength back and her weight. And - but she's starting to do better. She's got more energy lately. She's been up around the house. She's been cooking. So everything is going fine right now - going great.

MARTIN: Oh, I'm so glad to hear that. So thank you for telling us that. I'm so glad to hear that. Will you give her our best?

ROBINSON: Yes, ma'am. I got you.

MARTIN: But it's also important because, you know, she has been fighting cancer and her immune system is compromised, right? So she needs to be very careful, and the people around her need to be very careful. So this whole, I guess - kind of puts this whole coronavirus situation into some perspective for you, I would imagine.

ROBINSON: Yeah - yes, ma'am. So, yeah, we have to watch everything, I mean, we do - basically me and my sister. So me and my sister - we stay at home with my mother. So, basically, we got to watch who we're around - everything. We got to wash our hands every time we come in and out the house. It's very serious.

And it's kind of hard right now because when my mom - getting her energy back and everything like that - she wants to be out the house and she's not allowed to be in the house - I mean, not allowed to be out the house because of her immune system. So it's kind of tricky. We try to - we just got to be very careful at this moment.

MARTIN: Well, it does put it in perspective. Well, good luck to you next year - this coming year - in the draft. Thank you for talking to us.

ROBINSON: No problem. I appreciate you.

MARTIN: Well, don't forget us when you get big, right? When you blow up and become famous, right?

ROBINSON: Never - never. I would love to come back.

MARTIN: All right. That was Kenny Robinson. He's a former XFL player and NFL hopeful. Kenny Robinson - good luck to you.

ROBINSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.