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Vicis, a Seattle-based firm that developed a tech-enhanced helmet popular among NFL players, informed its investors in November that it had furloughed its employees and would shut down without an influx of capital, the New York Times reported Tuesday. The XFL had contracted the company to manufacture “a few hundred helmets” for delivery before the start of its 2020 season.
“This is not an issue for the XFL,” an XFL spokesperson said in a statement. “All of our players are properly helmeted at our minicamps currently taking place across the U.S.”
It is unclear if Vicis will fulfill that order. An unnamed XFL official told the Times that the league is “hoping” the delayed helmet shipment will arrive in time for training camp in early 2020. The rebooted XFL’s inaugural season begins in February.
“Vicis will be conducting internal year-end activities through January 2nd, 2020,” the company said in a message on its website. “We will resume accepting orders at that time.”
Vicis representatives did not return a request for comment on the status of the XFL’s helmet order.
Vicis is one of several helmet manufacturers active in the professional marketplace, alongside industry leaders Riddell and Schutt. The company has received more than $1 million in grants from the NFL as part of its efforts to improve player safety and prevent concussions, while investors, including NFL stars Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers, have contributed more than $90 million in funding.
To avert a shutdown, Vicis is attempting to raise money by selling shares at a valuation of just $5 million, according to a letter reviewed by the Times. The company has struggled to earn more money from helmet sales than it has spent on product development.
“Our employees are currently furloughed and we need to raise capital in order to continue operating, or we may have no other option but to wind down all operations,” Vicis CEO Ralph Greene Jr. wrote in the letter.
Aside from NFL grant money, Vicis' efforts to build a better football helmet have drawn widespread praise. Time named its youth helmet, the ZERO1, as one of the best inventions of 2019.
The XFL’s eight teams selected 538 players in their draft last October, leaving a potentially significant supply void if the Vicis deal collapses so close to the season. St. Louis Battlehawks team president Kurt Hunzeker named Riddell and Schutt as the league’s other helmet suppliers during a radio appearance earlier this month.
A previous incarnation of the XFL debuted in 1999 and folded after just one season. The reboot, self-funded by WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, kicks off on Feb. 8.
XFL officials have identified player safety as a key league tenet.