President Donald Trump


Silverman: Trump’s 'Patriotic' Stance Against NFL Fueled By Vendetta

Still Bitter About Failed Attempts To Buy Teams

Steve Silverman
June 07, 2018 - 11:35 am

When the vast majority of the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles turned down an invitation from President Donald Trump to celebrate their title run at the White House this week, the president rescinded the offer.

Trump would have been embarrassed if fewer than 10 members of the team had shown up -- and one report said quarterback Nick Foles was the only player set to attend.

Of course, Trump did not point to the potential for humiliation as the reason to withdraw the invitation. Instead, he pointed to the national-anthem controversy as the reason for the decision, despite that no Eagles player kneeled during the anthem last season.

Trump has been adamant that all players should stand for "The Star-Spangled Banner" or “maybe they shouldn’t be in this country.”

By wrapping any decision in the cloak of patriotism, Trump will always find a way to appeal to a segment of his supporters.

Standing up for what the president expresses as patriotism may create an easy-to-understand sound bite, but it has little to do with Trump’s true motivation.

He has a problem with the National Football League.

MORE: Palladino: NFL Flipflopped, Backslid, Kowtowed On New Anthem Rules

He has had a longstanding vendetta against the league since he was turned down for franchise ownership in the early 1980s.

Trump was the frontman for a group that tried to purchase the Baltimore Colts in 1981 for $50 million from Robert Irsay, the team’s owner at the time.   

He was rejected by Irsay, and then Trump turned his attention to the rival United States Football League.

Trump was able to purchase a team called the New Jersey Generals, and while the league found a modicum of success by avoiding direct competition with the NFL and playing football in the spring, Trump urged his fellow owners to take on the NFL by moving the USFL's schedule to the fall.

This ultimately proved to be the death knell for the league. Trump was the key owner behind an antitriust lawsuit against the NFL that turned out to be a disaster.

Trump and the USFL won the lawsuit, but the league was awarded a whopping $3 because the jury felt the USFL's own mismanagement was at the root of its problems. The league never played one game in the fall and faded from existence.

Trump, who also made an unsuccessful bid to buy the Buffalo Bills in 2014, has never gotten over being rejected by the NFL or the embarrassment of the lawsuit award.

Longtime sports publicist Ira Silverman (no relation to this columnist) helped Trump organize the news conference when Trump filed his antitrust suit against the NFL. Like many who have done business with Trump, Silverman only received partial payment – $1,000 of the $2,000 the two sides agreed upon.  

Silverman explained Trump’s perspective.

“This is someone that does not do very well when he hears the word ‘no,'" Silverman said. “He heard ‘no’ when he wanted to buy an NFL team so many years ago, and those words have fueled his desire to punish the NFL.

“There was little he could do about it until January 20, 2017 (Trump’s inauguration date), but since that date when he became president, that has changed. That’s why he says the things about the NFL when it comes to taking a knee during the national anthem and patriotism.”

It’s not his support for the flag or veterans that has fueled Trump’s anger, it is the memory of his failure to purchase a franchise that has hardened his stance.

The Colin Kaepernick story is not about anti-Americanism or a lack of patriotism. It is about pointing out the inequities within society that African-Americans have to contend with on a continuous basis. An argument can be made that staging a silent protest or taking a knee during the national anthem is the best way to make a statement, and it is the American way because it is based on freedom of speech.

But Trump has hopped on that to cause problems for the NFL. He is not upset about the league’s record when it comes to concussions and the health of its former players.

He remembers being rejected for a franchise and the humiliation of a piddling award in the antitrust trial. He has a bully pulpit as president, and he is causing problems for the NFL.

If television ratings get driven downward for the league and less revenue comes into its coffers, Trump would enjoy that.

The NFL’s issues are quite personal for the president, as are so many of the positions he takes on a daily basis.

Follow Steve on Twitter at @Profootballboy