“Indentured” author and New York Times writer Joe Nocera spoke to us earlier this year about the short-lived United States Football League (USFL) and Donald Trump’s involvement in its demise. The following is a transcript of this video:
The United States Football League with a league intended to play football in the spring that lasted between 1983 and 1985. So they had three seasons. And as a spring league in that first year, it was pretty, they didn’t do badly, it didn’t make money, but they had decent TV ratings, they had two TV networks, they had Herschel Walker, they had Steve Young, and they had Jim Kelly. It had possibilities.
Trump buys the Generals, before the second season. The first thing he says is, “If God had wanted spring football he wouldn’t have invented baseball.” So he buys into a spring league having every intention to move it to the fall to go head-to-head with the NFL, because that’s the way he thinks.
It was a terrible, terrible decision. At the beginning of the third season, the league actually decided that for the fourth season they would go to the fall. The networks were furious, the players knew it wasn’t going to work out, the losses really started to mount, the owners were getting incredibly upset. Trump had a solution, however. His solution was, “We’re gonna sue. We’re going to sue the NFL for being monopolists.”
The large part of the argument was, “We can’t get a network contract because they have all three networks locked up so they must be a monopolist.” The jury did, in fact, rule that the NFL was a monopolist that had harmed the USFL. They had asked for $US1.2 billion in damages, and the jury said, “We’re going to give you $US1.” And in antitrust cases that’s tripled so that’s $US3. Add interest that’s $US3.76.
And that’s how much the USFL got. And that was the end of the USFL, thanks mainly to Donald Trump.
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