With Donald Trump as a front runner for the GOP presidential nomination he’s been making a lot of press lately. His ego and penchant for alienating most of his voter base has made him the presidential hopeful the United States loves to hate. Long before his decision to run for election, however, the Donald was involved in what was perhaps one of the most humiliating lawsuits within sports history.
It was the early 1980s, and young business mogul Donald Trump became increasingly more interested in investing in sports teams. Initially he planned to purchase an NFL franchise. The deal fell through, but Trump set his sights on an even bigger prospect. A new football league all together: the USFL. Unlike the NFL, the USFL would only play during the spring season, and would not compete against the already existing NFL teams. Football fans nationwide rejoiced, for now they could enjoy their favorite sport practically year-round!
Trump quickly bought up the New Jersey Generals team, only to sell them and purchase them back the following year. It is unclear on why Trump made this decision, but one could guess that they stopped being a losing team and began winning a game here and there. The USFL was a hit and millions of fans were packing the stadiums week after week. That glory would, unfortunately, prove to be short-lived and football would once again return to a pastime reserved only for the autumn months, thanks to none other than Sir Donald, himself.
Trump was unsatisfied with the Spring schedule maintained by the USFL, and instead decided that it needed to be moved to the fall football schedule in order to compete with the big dogs. Additionally, in true Trump fashion, rather than sticking with a modest business model, Trump invested millions in securing major players for his team, The Generals. This decision displeased the football gods and the rest of USFL history would go down as a colossal failure.
In 1986, Trump and a handful of other major investors were dissatisfied with the modest television contracts offered to the league and instead decided that the best course of action would be to take on the NFL by accusing the league of monopolizing the sport. This decision was largely a cash grab at heart, and Trump would ultimately fail. Horribly.
With the fate of the USFL as a whole, along its thousands of players and employees livelihoods on the line, Trump decided to file an anti-trust suit against the NFL. If Trump won the case and a jury ultimately decided the NFL had an unfair advantage over the market, then all sums awarded would be tripled.
Trump did win the case. The jury determined that the NFL was acting in violation of antitrust laws, but they saw through Trump’s scheme. They awarded Trump and the USFL one whole dollar in the damages settlement, which was tripled to a grand total of three dollars. The Donald collected up his bruised ego and decided to move on to bigger and better things, putting the blunder behind him.
His follies didn’t die, however, and in 2014 when talks of purchasing the Buffalo Bills came up Trump denied pursuing the NFL suit. He threw his former colleagues under the bus, claiming pressure by other owners and commissioners within the league forced him into the suit. It can be argued that the expansion football league would have died a slow death on its own, but it’s hard to deny that Trump and his goons hastened the process.