Sports writer Jeff Pearlman is working on a history of the United States Football League (USFL), an upstart football conference which tried to challenge the NFL from 1983 to 1985. In the course of his research, Pearlman has uncovered a remarkable letter sent by Tampa Bay Bandits owner to his USFL partner Donald Trump, who owned the New Jersey Generals. (David Frum called attention to Pearlman’s post on Twitter).
As Pearlman explains, Trump was often at odds with his USFL partners. “Trump wasn’t merely disliked by his fellow owners; he was loathed and abhorred and detested,” Pearlman notes. “The general take: Here was a selfish bully who desperately craved an NFL franchise, and viewed the USFL as a temporary (and disposable) vehicle toward that end. Trump memorably led the USFL’s suicide march away from a spring season and toward the fall, and (much like now) his big words and loud voice and thuggish tendencies caused many lemming peers to follow.”
Evidence of Trump’s unpopularity can be found in a letter from Bassett to Trump dated August 16, 1984. “You are bigger, stronger, and younger than I, which means I’ll have no regrets whatsoever punching you 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 dance to your tune,” Bassett wrote.