Football leagues that failed against the NFL

Illustration by Madeline Slusher
This shows three football leagues and the different salaries that they paid their players on average.

The National Football League has been around since 1920. There have been multiple other leagues throughout the years, but all have fallen short of taking down the massive NFL. Failed attempts like the United States Football League, the Xtreme Football, the United Football, and the Allegiance of American Football, becoming the most recent to fall victim to the NFL.

When the Allegiance of American Football (AAF) first started, it was founded by Charlie Ebersol and Bill Polian in 2018. The inaugural season started six days after Super Bowl 53. The league had 8 teams which had 4 teams in each conference and showed lots of promise within the first couple of weeks. After 52 days of being active, the league suspended all action, being unable to finish their inaugural season. The players were released shortly after the news was released.

For the AAF, this was huge, not only for the ratings, but it came as an opportunity for the players who wanted to play.

“I think it is good for the young guys getting drafted, guys who are on practice squads, to get experience playing,” science teacher Marcus Calvert said.

The difficulties of running a football league are due to the time and season.

“I think it’ll be good because it’s an alternative to the NFL,” biology teacher Marcus Calvert said.

For the weeks prior to the shutdown, the league continued to have weekly games, some of the players speculated a near collapse. Charles James II spoke to about the shutdown a couple of days prior to it stopping.

“There was already speculation that the higher-ups in the league were having a meeting around 12 o’clock or 1 o’clock whether the league was going to be done,” he said. “So I look at the time and I know that meeting already happened.”

If you go to the official AAF page, a single statement is all that you can access.

“This week, we made the difficult decision to suspend all football operations for the Alliance of American Football,” the statement said. “We understand the difficulty that this decision has caused for many people and for that we are very sorry.”

The biggest oppressor to the NFL was the USFL, which ran from 1983-1985. The level of play was up there with the NFL. It had a lot of potentials, but was unable to compete after 3 seasons of activity.

“Some of the biggest problems they faced were, fan loyalty in pro sports is very strong,” Radio/TV teacher James Russell said. “The USFL challenged that by trying to put a football league that was outside the normal time of football. They were betting on people wanting to watch the USFL, mainly because they loved football.”

For fans, it is really hard to keep up with multiple teams, especially when you put so much devotion into a single team, and leagues expect that you multitask. Generally, all new leagues have that issue of converting fans from old to new.

“A lot of those football fans were loyal to their teams, so they would watch something like the Pittsburgh Steelers, or Indianapolis Colts, or Cincinnati Bengals, they would watch them during the winter fall months,” Russell said. “As soon as those seasons were over, they move to the other seasons and they follow those teams, and just didn’t spend much time wanting to watch football.”

Taiwan Jones, former linebacker for the Memphis Express was signed the day before the AAF collapsed.

“Literally dropped everything I had going on and just signed an @TheAAF contract yesterday at 9 pm and was excited to go back to doing what I loved,” he said on his twitter feed. “And in less than 24 hours the league is canceled, yet it’s ‘about the players.’ I’m sick.”