Jeff Pearlman

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Dear NFL: Do not let the bully bully you

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Dear NFL:

Donald Trump is doing what he does—and you are about to fall for it.

What he does is bully. And bully. And bully. He bullies until you cave. And, if you don’t cave, he continues to bully until you do cave. I speak from a unique position of authority, having recently completed—after two years of research and writing—a book about the United States Football League, in which Trump owned the New Jersey Generals during the 1984 and 1985 seasons.

At the time, Trump desperately wanted an NFL team, and he devised a devilish plan: Namely, he would do everything within his power to force the NFL and USFL on a collision course. The end game, he believed, was the Generals would be absorbed by the older league. As for the other USFL franchises? Meh. Who gave a shit?

So, as soon as he entered the USFL, Trump bullied and bullied and bullied the other owners to switch from the spring to fall and directly take on the NFL. There was no legitimate reason to think a fall switch wise. There was no logic to it. No strategy, either. Yet Trump bullied and bullied and bullied. He went after one owner, then another, then another, promising them things he knew would never be delivered. When certain owners refused to budge, Trump attacked—hard. Need proof? Here’s a letter, written in 1984 from John Bassett, owner of the Tampa Bay Bandits, to Trump …

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Ultimately, the other owners caved. They voted to switch to fall, and they allowed Trump to lead a lawsuit against the NFL. The end result: The league turned to ash.

Poof.

Trump is bullying you on the flag issue. As his popularity plummets and the holes in his game widen, he wants to rip at the wedge. In this case, the wedge is African-American players kneeling in protest over racial injustices. Trump doesn’t give a shit about the issue itself. Let me repeat that: Trump doesn’t give a shit about the issue itself. He is a man who had five deferments during Vietnam; a man who openly mocked a POW (his heroes don’t get captured, OK?) and a Gold Star Family; a man who donated $0.00 to 9.11 causes after the 2001 attacks in his city. This is not someone who has ever shown a morsel of interest in the flag or patriotism.

He is grasping onto this because he sees it as a cultural triumph. He can manipulate much of the public into thinking coddled NFL players hate America—coddled black NFL players. It’s Us v. Them, and even though, in reality, he’s “Them” (rich, entitled, unpatriotic), he’s convinced many he’s “Us.”

Well, don’t fall for it. The moment you stop kneeling; the moment you demand everyone stand—you are giving Donald Trump a victory he doesn’t deserve. You are boosting his hateful, nonsensical stance merely because you’re afraid, and he’s somehow the president.

I know you’re worried about money.

I know you’re worried about backlash.

But this is bigger than that.

It’s about righteousness.

  • Jeff

    “Donald Trump is doing what he does—and you are about to fall for it.”

    You fell for it, too. Trump weaponized the National Anthem because his entire existence relies upon divide & conquer diversionary tactics.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life