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Donald Trump, NFL have long, not-so-friendly history

| Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, 3:18 p.m.
Donald Trump, left, and Stephen Ross in 1985 announce they have reached agreement to merge the USFL's Houston Gamblers and New Jersey Generals.
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Donald Trump, left, and Stephen Ross in 1985 announce they have reached agreement to merge the USFL's Houston Gamblers and New Jersey Generals.

Donald Trump found himself across the field from the NFL long before he became U.S. president and took on the league Friday night from a podium in Alabama and later via Twitter.

He first faced off with the professional football giant in the 1980s, when he owned the New Jersey Generals of the then-fledgling and soon-to-be defunct United States Football League.

The Washington Post chronicled "Trump's long, stormy and unrequited romance with the NFL" over the weekend.

From the Post article:

In 1983, when the going rate for an NFL team was about $80 million, Trump spent $6 million to buy the New Jersey Generals of the rival U.S. Football League, which played its seasons in the spring.

In interviews after the real estate magnate announced his acquisition at a news conference in the atrium of Trump Tower, Trump said he decided to buy into the rival league because he wanted a challenge.

"I could've bought an NFL team if I wanted to. . . . But I'd rather create something from scratch," Trump said. "I feel sorry for the poor guy who is going to buy the Dallas Cowboys. It's a no-win situation for him, because if he wins, well, so what, they've won through the years, and if he loses . . . he'll be known to the world as a loser."

In 1984, Trump told the New York Times that he didn't buy the Cowboys — which are now the NFL's most-valuable sports franchise, worth an estimated $4.8 billion , according to Forbes.com — or another NFL team because he wanted to create something new.

Trump soon pushed to abandon the USFL strategy to play football in the spring and avoid confrontations with the NFL, wanting instead to "go head-to-head with the bigger league," according to Fortune.com.

The Fortune article noted:

"Rather than organically grow a new league, (Trump) hoped to force an immediate merger with the NFL, which would provide huge returns for surviving USFL team owners. That goal hinged in part on an antitrust lawsuit alleging the NFL was an unlawful monopoly.

But things didn't go Trump's way. While the USFL technically won the antitrust case, the jury concluded mismanagement was mostly at fault for its problems. There was no merger and no buyouts. By 1986, the USFL was finished."

Former NFL senior executive and longtime spokesman Joe Browne provided an insider's look for Sports Illustrated about the $1.7 billion lawsuit Trump and the USFL filed against the league.

"When the foreperson read the jury's findings of $1 in damages, Donald raced out of the building faster than Herschel Walker," Browne wrote.

Not all USFL owners supported Trump — or his demeanor. That included John Bassett, the late owner of the Tampa Bay Bandits, wrote Trump that he would "have no regrets whatsoever punching you right in the mouth the next time an instance occurs where you personally scorn me, or anyone else, who does not happen to salute and dance to your tune."

Three years ago, Trump unsuccessfully bid to buy the Buffalo Bills.

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