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33. Trump And The USFL

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Long before he became President of the United States, Donald Trump tried to make his mark on another American institution: the NFL.

Trump, along with a group of other wealthy businessmen, was an instrumental part in setting up the fledgling United States Football League, which was conceived as a rival league to the NFL. The idea was that by controlling costs, and playing a spring/summer schedule, the league could compete with the more established product of the NFL and begin to make a name for itself. And for a time, the plan worked: the USFL played its first season in 1983, and quickly gained a reputation for entertaining games and professional (if somewhat haphazard) venues. Before long, they’d begun to sow the seeds of doubt in executives for the NFL, who they referred to as the No Fun League.

But the dream quickly went off the rails. Teams began recklessly spending on player salaries—handing out multi-million dollar contracts to unestablished college players, and eventually even bidding on eye-catching NFL stars. Meanwhile, several owners had trouble financing their teams, and there was a rash of relocations, name changes, and news-worthy ownership drama.

Eventually, as it became increasingly clear that the USFL was doomed to failure, Trump made pains to publically blame the NFL for monopolizing network coverage. Along with the other USFL owners, he sued—and won—but instead of receiving the $1.2 billion damages he sought, a jury awarded the plaintiffs just $1. Shortly after that, the USFL folded for good.

“And then Donald Trump walks in. And he’s bombastic from the start. He’s loud, he clearly wants to be noticed. Just a jerk, and a jerk on purpose. – USFL GM

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