Sports reporter Jeff Pearlman, a former Sports Illustrated writer and author of the upcoming book Football for a Buck, on Tuesday detailed the origins of Donald Trump’s “hostile relationship with the National Football League”—and explained how the president’s obsession with joining the “Big Boy’s Club” sank the United States Football League.
In a video posted to Perioscope, Pearlman examined the historical roots of Trump’s grudge against the NFL, noting “there’s so much more here than you think.”
According to Pearlman, who interviewed 400 people for his new book on the USFL, said Trump’s beef with the NFL dates back to the early 1980’s, when the Baltimore Colts were for sale. Pearlman said Trump wanted to buy the Colts, but the Irsay family had “zero interest” in selling to him. Referencing Trump’s oft-repeating claim he “almost bought the Colts,” Pearlman called that assertion “factually untrue.”
“The NFL had a very negative sort of feel for Trump at the time,” Pearlman said, noting the commissioner knew Trump’s reputation in New York real estate was “pretty slimy” and suspected Trump “didn’t have that much money.”
Trump eventually signed on to join the USFL, a spring football league with regional drafts that Pearlman described as a “really good idea.” At the last minute, Trump backed out, calling the other owners to tell them it’s “not gonna happen, I’m out.” An Oklahoma oil man J. Walter Duncan agreed to buy the team to fill the void left by Trump.
As Pearlman explained, Duncan sold the New York Generals to Trump (who overpaid for the team by $2 million) and began telling the other owners how excited he was to be a part of the league.
Suddenly, upon joining the league, Trump demanded the USFL switch to playing in the fall, telling the other owners the league has to battle head-to-head with the NFL. Pearlman said the other owners greeted Trump with a collective “what the f*ck are you talking about?”
As he was wont to do, Trump employed his fake-publicist, John Barron (who is really Donald Trump with an accent) to spread “pure bullsh*t” about why the league needed to move to the fall. Trump’s goal the entire time, Pearlman argued, was to get into the NFL.
“His complete and total intent was to land an NFL franchise,” Pearlman said.
In 1984, Trump met with Pete Rozelle, then the NFL commissioner, to discuss joining the league. As Pearlman reported, Trump was told by he would “never be an owner of this league.”
“We have no interest in you,” Rozelle told Trump, explaining he was “rejected by the NFL” and eventually led a lawsuit against the opposing league. As is his custom, Trump promised the other USFL owners he guaranteed a win. Eventually, the USFL was awarded $1.
According to Pearlman “every promise Trump made” to USFL owners was lie, and the USFL “across the board all went to sh*t.”
“Everything Donald Trump touches turns to sh*t,” Pearlman said, arguing this is a “guy who was rejected by the Big Boy’s Club” and now relates the NFL to “seething, anger and resentment.”
Trump’s attacks on kneeling NFL players, Pearlman argued, is “not about the flag,” calling that argument “nonsense.”
Instead, it’s borne out of that same “seething, anger and resentment” that led him to “single-handedly [ruin] a really good football league.”
Explaining @realdonaldtrump’s anger toward the NFL (it’s more than you think) https://t.co/RbRkUIDb6p— Jeff Pearlman (@Jeff Pearlman) 1528165392.0