Donald Trump, who, decades prior to running for the Republican presidential nomination, was the owner of the New Jersey Generals of the failed United States Football League (USFL), complained at a recent campaign rally that the National Football League (NFL) has become “too soft” because of the increased emphasis on player safety in recent years:
As Donald Trump watched Saturday night’s Steelers-Bengals game, with hard hits that caused concussions and drew penalty flags, he thought he saw a metaphor for the direction that our country is heading in.
“Football has become soft like our country has become soft,” Trump said at a campaign rally today, to cheers from the audience.
Trump said he’s frustrated to see the way the NFL has changed the rules to take many hits to the head out of the game, at the expense of what Trump views as the old-school style of play that made the game great decades ago.
Make no mistake about it, football is a big part of American culture, with the Super Bowl traditionally being the most-watched television program of the year and the NBC Sunday Night Football jingle being effectively America’s second national anthem. In fact, I’m a big fan of football myself, with football being my third-favorite sport behind curling (a winter sport that is almost never on American television) and stock car racing.
Back to the main point of the blog post…player safety is something that should be a major focus of football at all levels of the sport. Head injuries are very serious, and repetitive head injuries have caused many former football players to suffer long-term medical problems. Many deceased former football players, including Frank Gifford and Junior Seau (last name pronounced say-OW), were diagnosed post-mortem with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that causes, among other things, memory loss and suicidal mentality. I believe that any non-incidental contact above the shoulders should be banned in football at all levels.
Let’s not forget that Trump was largely responsible for the USFL, a professional football league that operated for three seasons in the 1980’s, folding:
Soon after Trump bought the Generals after the USFL’s inaugural season, which was played in the spring of 1983, he started pushing his fellow owners to move the league’s games to the fall and go head-to-head with the NFL. “If God wanted football in the spring,” Trump once said, “he wouldn’t have created baseball.” After the league’s third season, the owners agreed to move to a fall schedule in 1986.
“I think it was a big mistake,” said Dr. Ted Diethrich, one of the league’s original owners. “When that decision was made, the course for this was charted, and it was going to be a wreck.”
Several teams were having financial difficulties at the time, and the league lacked the fall TV contracts that supported the NFL. The USFL instead tried to take on the NFL in the courts by filing an antitrust lawsuit. The hope was that the USFL would either merge with the established league or win a sizable settlement. The merger never happened, and despite winning the lawsuit, the USFL was ultimately awarded only $3 for its troubles. The league soon folded, and Trump’s push for the fall schedule and a lawsuit against the NFL is generally cited as the main reason.
Remember, Donald Trump has derailed professional football once before, so he’s not credible when it comes to talking about the current state of professional football in America.