Not so fast … to a new version of the USFL.
A lawsuit was filed Monday trying to block FOX Sports from its planned launch of the USFL again in April.
The Real USFL LLC, a company formed to protect the trademarks of the 1980s spring football league, is seeking injunctions to stop the network from using the name USFL and any of the original league’s team names or logos.
“Fox has no claim to this legacy and no right to capitalize on the goodwill of the league,” the Real USFL said in its complaint, filed in federal court in Los Angeles. “Fox’s USFL franchise is an unabashed counterfeit.”
“It boils down to this,” said Pro Football Hall of Famer Larry Csonka, who is acting as the initial manager of the group bringing the suit. “If the USFL doesn’t have any value, why did FOX want it?”
As part of a lawsuit filed on behalf of owners & executives from the original USFL against the new USFL, they cite a Fox press release that looks different now than its original form. pic.twitter.com/hqAnmu6KAK
— Sean Keeley (@SeanKeeleyIsMe) February 28, 2022
If the USFL and lawsuits sound familiar, that is because one doomed the original incarnation of the league in the ’80s.
In August 1984, the USFL voted to move from a spring to a fall schedule in 1986 to compete directly with the NFL. This was done at the urging of New Jersey Generals majority owner Donald Trump and a handful of other owners as a way to force a merger between the leagues.
As part of this strategy, the USFL filed an antitrust lawsuit against the National Football League in 1986, and a jury ruled that the NFL had violated anti-monopoly laws. However, in a victory in name only, the USFL was awarded a judgment of just $1, which under antitrust laws, was tripled to $3. This court decision effectively ended the USFL’s existence. The league never played its planned 1986 season, and by the time it folded, it had lost over $163 million.
Per the release:
FOX Sports’ USFL is scheduled to begin play this spring, in large part using the same franchise names, logos and other materials associated with the original USFL. The USFL operated from 1983 to 1985 and launched the careers of players such as Steve Young and Jim Kelly. Since that time, the league’s owners and executives have preserved its legacy through displays at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, licensing agreements for fan apparel, and an authorized documentary and book about the league.
“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,” says Nicholas Matich of the McKool Smith law firm, which represents the Real USFL LLC, the organization of former USFL owners and executives. “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.”
The case is The Real USFL LLC v. Fox Sports Inc., 2:22-cv-01350, U.S. District Court, Southern District of California (Los Angeles).