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Trump's NFL Vendetta

Updated on August 14, 2020

Back in the Day

The president of the United States has made it a personal issue to battle with players who have chosen to kneel in protest during the National Anthem. The strange thing is the timing of such a tirade, since he should be concentrating on more pressing issues like hurricane relief to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. In fact, he is trying to tell the owners of NFL teams how to run their teams, in addition to telling fans to boycott any team that allows their players to protest. We know that this is an illegal practice as no federal politician is allowed to interfere with how a person runs his privately owned business, but no one seems to be concerned with that fact of law. Could it be that he still hates that he lost a bid to overpower the NFL back in 1985? Let's look at the history between Trump and the NFL.

Back in 1983, there was an upstart professional football league that had plans on competing with the NFL. The league had some pretty wealthy owners and their plan was to sign NFL players and college draft picks to higher salaries than the NFL was paying them. This was the United States Football League, better known as the USFL, founded by David Dixon. Understanding the popularity of the NFL, the league decided to play their schedule during the NFL off season to gain maximum exposure. There were obstacles for the new league as some teams wanted to play their games in NFL stadiums, they bid on players they truly couldn't afford to pay, and teams wound up transferring ownership and relocating often in their formative years.

After a fairly successful first season, Donald Trump saw a chance to purchase a team that was having financial difficulties and he bought the New Jersey Generals. This was near the beginning of Trump's financial career and he had a reputation of being a successful real estate mogul. The Generals had just signed the most sought after player in college, Herschel Walker the Heisman Trophy winner, and would sign Doug Flutie the Heisman Trophy winner the next year. The Houston Gamblers were in financial trouble and Trump wound up buying them and merging them with the Generals. Trump was now a major power in the USFL and he pushed for the league to start competing in the fall, in direct competition with the NFL. Although most owners were against it, and several outside consultants advised against it, Trump got his way and the league decided to compete in the fall of 1986. The league was building popularity as long as it played in the off season of the NFL. But by trying to compete in the fall, they no longer had access to some of the stadiums used by NFL teams, nor the television exposure as the NFL had a lock on the major networks for years.

This caused the USFL to file a lawsuit claiming the NFL had a monopoly on the networks, whereas, if they had stayed in their schedule of Spring-Summer football, they had the networks to themselves. Guess what? The USFL won the lawsuit. Or did they. A six man jury voted in their favor, but on August 4, 1986, the judge awarded the league $1, which was tripled to $3 due to antitrust laws, and an additional 76 cents in interest, for a total judgement of $3.76. So the league suspended operations and never played another game. Had the other owners not listened to Trump, they might have still been in business today.

What were Trump's real motives for wanting to compete directly with the NFL? He reasoned that by competing directly, much like the old AFL had done, that the league would merge certain teams into the NFL. Naturally he thought his team would be one of those that would be selected, so his intentions for wanting the fall schedule were clearly personal and not for the good of the league.

His recent comments to the fans about boycotting and walking out of games are designed to destroy the league he once wanted to be a part of. He lost a lot of money on his investment in the USFL.He is embarrassed by the settlement he won from the lawsuit to the NFL, although he can say he won. So I have no doubt that he would love to see the public turn against the league, even though he claims to be friends with some of the owners, many of which supported his campaign. I have already seen videos of fans allegedly burning game tickets. It will be interesting to see how teams and their owners choose to respond this weekend.


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