When Trump said 'you're fired' to an entire football league
Friday night in Alabama (no sentence starting like that has ever ended well, has it?), Donald Trump reminded his racist supporters that he is, in fact, just as racist as they are.
It’s been more than a month now since the president gave neo-Nazis and the KKK a full Goebbels chub by welcoming them back into polite society after a 70-year hiatus, and he needed a big booster shot from his white supremacist base, especially after appearing to play nice with Chuck and Nancy over DACA.
But first he had to find an easy target, so he picked the thing that frightens his core supporters more than anything else. No, not cruciferous vegetables. A proud African-American man with a conscience.
Calling out Colin Kaepernick without saying his name, Trump used the presidential bully pulpit to excoriate the NFL free agent, who has made a habit of kneeling during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice:
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s FIRED!’”
Well, Trump knows something about putting professional football players out of work, because he once got hundreds of them axed all at once through his rank stupidity, unbridled vanity, feckless aggression, and lousy business instincts.
Because Trump has always been more of a media spectacle than a real businessman (or human being, for that matter), he longed to stick his fuzzy piñata head into the klieg lights of big-time professional football. So in the early ‘80s, he bought the New Jersey Generals, which were part of the USFL, a fledgling league that was trying to compete with the long-established and well-heeled NFL. Roughly two years later, Trump’s incompetence and untethered ego destroyed the USFL. (And if you don’t think this is a cautionary tale for our country, you haven’t been paying attention.)
Here’s how ESPN’s Arash Markazi summed it up:
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.
Tired of winning $3 lawsuit judgments, the league folded shortly thereafter, and according to Markazi, “Trump’s push for the fall schedule and a lawsuit against the NFL is generally cited as the main reason.”
Let’s just be glad Trump wasn’t around when the Founding Fathers were putting together the Constitution. For one thing, it would have included at least 10 crass plugs for the Trump Inn and Publick House, and for another, he would have definitely found some way to strangle our republic in its cradle. Probably by insisting that real countries have kings.
Come to think of it, that might still happen.