Sports | September 28, 2017 10:58 am

How Donald Trump’s Pro Football Past Helped Predict His Current Views on NFL

President's failed USFL bid and behavior at time may be behind his scorn for player protests.

Donald Trump Never Really Wanted to Be President
(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Long before there was Twitter and a 140-character (or dare we say, 280-character) limit, people actually had to write each other letters to get their point across.

In an opinion piece, author Jeff Pearlman, writing for Maclean’s, offers up a doozy—a letter from 1984, written by Canadian businessman John Bassett, who owned the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits, to fellow owner, Donald J. Trump, who was the moneyman behind the New Jersey Generals.

In it, Bassett threatens to punch Trump “right in the mouth the next time an instance occurs where you personally scorn me, or anyone else, who does not happen to salute or and dance to your tune.” (It’s unclear what Bassett was referring to specifically, but one can imagine it was fairly inflammatory.)

It was Trump’s cash infusion of $9 million in the Generals that gave the flailing NFL competitor some legs. But soon after, Trump began to bad-mouth the league and its owners, saying that it had no shot as a spring sport and needed to switch over to fall to compete with the NFL. Writes Pearlman: “During owner meetings, he bullied, he mocked, he ridiculed, he insulted—all in an effort to get his peers to agree with him.”

The USFL would fold soon after.

Has Trump’s abject failure with the USFL had anything to do with his latest whipping pole, the NFL? Pearlman suggests, “The warped lesson of those football days is that, with enough swagger and gusto, anyone can be bullied.”