Trump’s anthem soapbox has USFL roots

PITTSBURGH — We’re still a month or so away from ski season, but I’m going to head down this particular slippery slope anyway.

Official disclaimer: This is not a political statement or column. This is still the sports section, and let’s give thanks for that.

But…

Before Donald J. Trump became this great nation’s 45th President, he was a businessman and entrepreneur who cultivated and enjoyed a high profile. One of his investments was a franchise in the United States Football League, which started operating in the spring of 1983.

The USFL was designed to cash in on the popularity of pro football without competing directly with the established NFL. The USFL season started in March and ran through early July, filling the months of the NFL’s offseason.

Pittsburgh got a franchise in 1984 when the DeBartolo family invested in the Maulers.

The USFL may have continued as an adjunct to the NFL, but some of the USFL owners had the flawed idea to compete more directly with the NFL. The planned to run a fall schedule, which would go head-to-head with the NFL.

That was undoubtedly a suicide mission, but there may have been a hidden motive. Most upstart leagues are created with the idea of forcing a merger with the established league. It worked for the AFL (football), for the ABA (basketball) and to a limited degree for the WHA (hockey).

It’s a chance for the investors in the new league to get admission to the big league at a bargain price.

The USFL sued the NFL on antitrust grounds, claiming that its contracts for TV rights and stadium leases represented a monopoly. The USFL won the case on principle, but the judgment was for a token $1. Yes, that’s $1 as in the four quarters you have in your pocket. (It was actually tripled to $3 under antitrust regulations).

The USFL had been aiming for $567 million, which would have been tripled to $1.7 billion. The award they got wouldn’t even cover the cost of seeing a movie matinee. The USFL went under instantly.

One of the owners who was most bullish about aggressively taking on the NFL was Donald J. Trump of the New Jersey Generals.

That’s the same President Trump, who won’t let go of the national anthem protest issue and takes every opportunity to blast the NFL. Critics argue the 45th President has problems staying on point, but he seems to be pretty well centered on this issue. The anthem protest controversy had faded away until Trump made incendiary comments about it in September.

Does the whole matter have its roots in an embarrassing defeat in the courts decades ago? Is this really based on a battle between competing pro football leagues? Is this a grudge that he won’t let go?

His zeal for this issue makes you wonder.

Cheerleaders

Baseball has changed in a lot of ways, and one of them has been on display in the postseason.

Players feel comfortable jumping the rail in front of the dugout to spill on the field and celebrate good things. They’re out there dancing and fist pumping, blatant actions that would have gotten somebody knocked down in a different era.

Then again, players on the bench used to wear classy-looking satin jackets. Now they’re in hoodies, so the manager looks less like the guy in charge and more like someone headed to Home Depot on a Saturday morning.

Bad effort

Le’Veon Bell had the whole offseason to plan a touchdown celebration. And all he could come up with was turning the goal post padding into a punching bag?

Weak.

Side bet

The Cincinnati Bengals are in town for this afternoon’s game against the Steelers.

What is the over/under on Vontaze Burfict’s penalty yardage?

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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