Thursday, September 28, 2017

Trump On Another Rampage

Donald Trump is an expert in sparking controversy. After an apparent murder during protests in Charlottesville, Va., he issued an incendiary remark, followed by an apparent clarification, followed by a virtual reiteration of his initial remark. He has done blasted North Korea publicly and rashly, egging on a fellow who has nerve gas and nuclear weapons. He used "John McCain for political punch lines on talk radio";John McCain for political punch lines on talk radio"; and on and on and on.

He has provoked protest by asking NFL owners to fire any "son of a bitch" who has the temerity to kneel rather than sit and has tweeted "the NFL has to change. Or you know what's going to happen? Their business is going to go to hell."

The President knows NFL owners cannot afford open combat with their players. If the league "changes" by adopting a rule requiring kneeling- as Trump has urged- or the teams begin to release players because of their poltical beliefs, the NFL might end up "going to hell."

And he knows about businesses going to hell. Whether relatively minor, such as destroying "priceless art deco friezes" or the relatively major, such as a casino business, Donald Trump knows how to destroy. (Four things to count on: Donald Trump will destroy something, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, and Max Kellerman makes a good point.)

That's applies especially to football leagues. Back around the time that the New York news and entertainment media affectionately referred to him as "the Donald," Trump owned the USFL's New Jersey Generals. In the summer of 1986 

having already lost a collective $200 million, USFL owners, out-debated and out-maneuvered by Trump, voted 12-2 to move to a fall schedule. They also went ahead with a $1.7 billion anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL, who it claimed, among other things, had a chokehold on national TV rights. USFL owners hoped the suit would void the NFL's TV contracts, force a merger, or provide a game-changing payday. So instead of playing football in the spring of 1986, the USFL landed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. (Bassett, one of the two votes against the fall move, died on the trial's first day). Ehrhart says Trump brought in lawyer Harvey Myerson—later jailed for a phony billing scheme—to lead the case. (Another of Trump's lawyer pals, Roy Cohn, the commie-baiting counsel for Senator Joseph McCarthy's hearings in the 1950s, served as only an infrequent consultant, says Ehrhart.) The NFL focused its defense on Trump. It portrayed him, Trump wrote in his 1987 bestseller The Art of the Deal, as a "vicious, greedy, Machiavellian billionaire, intent only on serving my selfish ends at everyone else's expense." To be fair, he's been called worse.

The 42-day trial ended with a jury ruling in favor of the USFL. But it also concluded that the league's dire straights were largely a result of its own doing, not the NFL's, and so awarded the USFL damages totaling…$1. Damages in anti-trust cases are tripled, so the award grew to…$3. The USFL appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which four years later allowed the award to stand. Including interest, the NFL stroked a check to the USFL for $3.76. Ehrhart still keeps it, uncashed, inside a Memphis bank's safety deposit box. (Ehrhart also handled a $6 million check for the league's attorneys' fees and allows, "I did distribute that one.")

On Myerson's advice, the league scuttled its new fall season while waiting out the appeal, assured a huge payout was on the way.

The USFL never played another game.

Trump not only destroyed the USFL, he probably did so hoping the NFL would absorb his New York Generals. He also failed in a bid to buy the then-Baltimore Colts and the Buffalo Bills.

The man knows how to hold a grudge- as Barack Obama can tell you- and thinks everyone owes him. That is a really bad combination.

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