Why The Original USFL Owners And Execs Are Suing Fox Sports

Why The Original USFL Owners And Execs Are Suing Fox Sports

An organization representing the owners and executives of the original United States Football League have filed a lawsuit in federal court to prevent Fox Sports, a division of Fox Corporation FOX, from launching a new version of the league.

What Happened: Fox Sports’ USFL will include the franchise names, logos and related materials from the original league, according to a Deadline report. The new endeavor is scheduled to commence on April 16.

The original USFL owners and executives have continued to preserve the defunct league’s legacy in apparel licensing, an authorized documentary and book, and displays in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Real USFL LLC, the organization representing the original league’s leadership, also charged Fox with trying to intimidate its vendors by claiming the network has exclusive rights to the names and logos of the USFL teams.

“Fox is trying to reap where it did not sow and profit from confusion among fans of the real USFL, by claiming the legacy of something it didn’t build,” said Nicholas Matich, an attorney representing the Real USFL LLC. “The Real USFL is acting to protect the legacy of the players, owners, coaches, and staff of the historic league. Quite simply Fox is claiming to be something that it’s not — the heir of the 1980s league that launched numerous hall-of-fame careers and changed the game of football.”

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Why It Matters: The USFL operated from 1983 to 1985 as a spring league to avoid a direct confrontation with the NFL. The league was a stepping stone for future NFL greats Herschel Walker, Steve Young and Jim Kelly. Donald Trump held a majority ownership stake of the New Jersey Generals; it's unclear if the former president is part of Real USFL.

In 1986, several team owners including Trump forced the league to switch its schedule to the fall/winter, with the goal of forcing a merger with the NFL. When the NFL expressed no interest in a merger, the USFL filed an antitrust lawsuit — that proved to be a pyrrhic victory as the court ruled in the USFL's favor but awarded a judgment of only $1. The league never played its final season and went out of business with a loss of $163 million.

Fox did not offer a public comment on the lawsuit.

Photo: Mike Russell / Wikimedia Commons

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