More than 30 years ago, Donald Trump bought a franchise in the upstart United States Football League. He then led his fellow owners to sue the NFL in a high-stakes antitrust case.
The head-on challenge and his ownership of the New Jersey Generals was an early testing ground for the swashbuckling approach that the celebrity businessman-turned-Republican presidential candidate has brought to his 2016 campaign.
“Donald was the big, crazy-spending owner, and the NFL guys were scared to death of him,” said Bill Tatham Jr., an owner of the USFL’s Arizona Outlaws who came to admire Trump’s tactics.
Trump, in an interview Friday with The Associated Press, said his involvement with the league helped it stay alive longer than it would have otherwise, and that his involvement with the team raised his profile.
Before the upstart league, he said, “I was well known, but not really well known. After taxes, I would say I lost $3 million. And I got a billion dollars of free publicity.”
The USFL was founded with an explicit goal: avoid fights with the NFL. Thanks to novelty and a few marquee players, most notably the Generals’ Hershel Walker, a Heisman Trophy winner, the league got off to a promising start. But by the end of the inaugural 1983 season, enthusiasm had ebbed and some cornerstone franchises were struggling.
That’s when Trump bought the Generals.
To people who cared about sports, as opposed to New York development deals, Trump’s name wasn’t widely known. But the tryouts for the Generals’ “Brig-A-Dears” cheerleading squad drew broad coverage, setting the stage for a media bonanza. During the first six months of his ownership, Trump’s name appeared 161 times in newspapers — more than it had appeared in the prior four years.
The USFL bled money during its first two years. Owners overspent on talent and the league expanded at a rate that its audience could not justify. Whether fixing these mistakes would have been enough to make a spring league viable remains the subject of heated debate decades later, according to interviews with those involved at the time.
But even if a spring football season were viable, Trump wouldn’t have wanted to be part of a league that was going to be “low class, all third-rate players” anyway, he said.
Trump frequently drew attention by sparring with the NFL. When the New York Giants got into a public contract dispute with star Lawrence Taylor, Trump wired $1 million into the linebacker’s bank account and signed Taylor to a future contract. To get Taylor back, the Giants “gave me a million dollars and hated me ever after,” Trump recalls.
With much of the league exhausted and in debt, Trump’s advocacy for a frontal assault on the NFL ultimately paid off. The case ended up in front of a jury; the NFL painted Trump as the villain. Though jurors found that the NFL was a monopoly, they awarded the USFL only $1 in damages — dooming the league.
“What the NFL did was smart,” Trump told the AP. “They purely said, ‘This is a Donald Trump thing, and he doesn’t need the money.’ ”
Three decades after the league’s collapse, many who participated in it see Trump’s presidential campaign as a replay of his football days. Some in lower perches in the league said it was a mistake that Trump persuaded fellow owners to support his attempt to break into the clubby world of the NFL.
But Tatham and other owners who supported Trump in challenging the USFL say it was a savvy gamble that nearly succeeded. They see a parallel in Trump’s current campaign.
“I think Donald Trump looks at the United States like his franchise in the USFL,” Tatham said. “Don’t ever think he doesn’t know what he’s doing.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Step out of the forrest and see the sly Trump for what he is, vision going to a circus or carnival and hearing the barker telling you this is the best in the world, you will not believe what you are about to see. Does this sound like Trump the barker only he is holding a crystal ball and turns it to pick up what he needs to bark to what he hopes are under his spell.
I have lived through times with very little luxuries growing up in material things, a time when America was one Nation Under God, people helping people, our streets safe, children being taught the constitution and what it stood for, getting a high school diploma greater than a college degree today. Willing to work to support his needs not depend on others to feed him.
Remember the greatest war ( WW11) when it was with pride those on the home front were ask to give up certain items needed for the war, pride we could do something to help our country, our flag honored, those in uniform was prayed for and praised willing to loose their life for America not the World.
As for Women we were not raped, dressed our bodies in a way fitting for respect, raised our Children how to respect others, honor our Country And to be the best they can be. Bring this back Trump.
I ask now for you to remove the blinders and listen to Trump to see if he talks about what made America great, lawsuits, bank rupt using the law of the land to hurt those in a honest business for his gain. He will make any kind of deal to get his way only difference is if he is president it will be our money and our Country they won’t like. As a Christain pick the one who can quote scripture and know it’s meaning and live by its teaching.
Everyone who wants Trump for President, like I do, please remember- if you want to cast your vote through the ONLY way it can be legally counted toward his election, you MUST:
1.) call your local elections department in the County and find out the date of the first Republican Caucus in your area and be sure to attend- NO MATTER WHAT. The first caucus here in my State will be on Feb 20th, some happen earlier in other states, so hurry and get your info for your local area. In order to cast a vote that actually counts toward the election of the US President, you MUST be at the first precinct caucuses, AND
2.) get elected from your precinct, then you go on to the County Caucus,
3.) go on to the County Caucus, and at the County Caucus, you must get elected to go to the State Convention as one of many reps from your county.
4.)Go to the State Convention. Once you’re at the State Convention, then you must be elected to go to the National Convention where you can THEN cast your vote to elect the candidate of your choice.
Most people don’t even know this info. I didn’t before I was told. So PLEASE find out when your first precinct caucus will be held… and more or less “kill or die” (not really!- just as a reference to the importance of getting there) to get there and try to get elected. If you miss the first caucus meeting, you have forever lost your chance to vote the candidate of your choice into office. The people’s vote in November on the ballot is nothing more than a straw poll and does NOT EVER elect the President of the USA.
So please take note and spread the word asap if your friends, family, and relatives don’t already know about this. I am ashamed to say that I never even knew you had to attend the very first precinct caucus in order to even get yourself into the running to legitimately cast your vote for the President until I was 37 years old! Believe me- the people in charge don’t want everyone to know that either, as it has gotten them this far into the total destruction of our country.
Plus, once you get there, the establishment RINOs will try to strongarm you into voting for THEIR already picked globalist candidate. They don’t want anyone making their own choice, as I have found out 2 elections in a row. In fact, in order to get elected, you may refrain from telling them you will vote for Trump, as they want to ask you so they can nix you out of getting elected too. I’ve been through 2 of them. I was elected to the State Convention in the first one, and they all railroaded me from being elected in the second election because I didn’t pick THEIR CHOICE for me to “pick” on the previous year. So you will also have to be pretty savvy as to not letting them know your choice of candidate. They are evil, and attempting to rule from top down instead of bottom-up, while still calling it “the people’s choice”. You just have to be smart about not letting them railroad you out of it. It is after all, each person’s choice, NOT THEIR COMMAND to ram to down your throat. So, it’s still worth the effort, and a little fun also- don’t miss your chance to vote!
FINALLY- a Republican candidate with spine!! Hurray- TRUMP for President!! ;()
I agree with you — we need a guy who tells it like it is. And puts his money where his mouth is.
I just moved to S.C., and will be voting for Trump. I’d love to get into the caucus and thank you for telling us how. I doubt I will be able to this time around, but I surely do support your efforts my friend. Trump, Trump, Trump!
Rick Worthington says
For one thing, I believe that “The Donald” is more of a Christian than Obama. I cannot help BUT believe, that, for starters, religion and politics, both dangerous grounds in any debate, should be kept separate. All things aside, Donald Trump just may be the saving grace for the former great country of the United States of America – just in case you didn’t know it, or are aware, there’s the very real danger of a financial crisis coming later this year. Methinks DJ Trump might just be the only President who would be able to save the country. Time will tell. One thing is VERY CERTAIN….Just because a man can accurately quote the Scriptures, DOES NOT make him a suitable candidate for President…I believe Trump would live more by the Scriptures than either Hillary or Obama. One thing is for sure – if The Donald says he will – and he succeeds, in making America great again, then maybe those ideals that you look back on and wish for, will again come true. Let’s hope and pray – only time will tell.
THE DONALD IS A WHEELER DEALER WE NEED A LEADER AND NOT A LIAR IN THEWHITEHOUSE, LIAR OBAMA IS A COWARD AND A LYING F… MUSLIM
R rathert says
I hope Trump is our next President.He is what we need to stir up Washington.
George Maier says
I have voted for Democrats before but either of the two are and the existing autocrat are destroying the party.
We need 2 parties but I can’t imagine how the Communists can allow it to survive.
I will vote for any Republican who wins the nomination this year.
If you are a vet, an American, a free enterpriser,a
worker, an intelligent person with degrees or not, a Christian,a Jew, a Budhist aShinto,aHindu,a true Muslim or even an atheist vote to rid us and keep out a Communist,greedy autocrat.
Vote Republican this year.
Any of them will help America “U S” America
Dylan Pepperling says
George, this is a very, very silly remark. Please George, grow up.