On Sunday, Donald Trump, slamming NFL officiating to accentuate portraying himself as the candidate who will restore America’s strength, informed a campaign rally in Reno, Nevada: “Football has become soft like our country has become soft. We’re going soft, just like the NFL, we’re going soft.”
Trump had been speaking of Iraq when he suddenly shifted to the NFL and how penalties issued for dangerous tackles have weakened the game, asserting:
It’s a Sunday, who the hell wants to watch these crummy games? I just want to watch the end. By the way — okay, let me go there for a second. Let me end that story. So we gave them Iraq, we’re stupid. We’re stupid. I’ll change things. Believe me, I’ll change things. And again, we’re going to be so respected. I don’t want to use the word “feared.” What I just said about a game — so I’m watching a game yesterday. What used to be considered a great tackle, a violent head-on [tackle], a violent — if that was done by Dick Butkus, they’d say he’s the greatest player. If that were done by Lawrence Taylor — it was done by Lawrence Taylor and Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke, right? Ray Nitschke — you used to see these tackles and it was incredible to watch, right?
Now they tackle. “Oh, head-on-head collision, 15 yards.” The whole game is all screwed up. You say, “Wow, what a tackle.” Bing. Flag. Football has become soft. Football has become soft.
Ignoring anecdotal evidence from players from previous eras who struggled with the effects of on-field injuries long after they left the field, and medical evidence on the dangers of head-on collisions at great speeds, Trump continued:
Now, I’ll be criticized for that. They’ll say, “Oh, isn’t that terrible.” But football has become soft like our country has become soft. [Applause] It’s true. It’s true. The outcome of games has been changed by what used to be phenomenal, phenomenal stuff. Now these are rough guys, these are rough guys. These guys — what they’re doing is incredible, but I looked at it and I watched yesterday in particular. So many flags, right? So many flags. And I could imagine a guy like Lawrence Taylor and Dick Butkus, who was really rough, and some of these guys sitting there watching. “Wow, what a beautiful tackle.” “Fifteen yards! That’s — the game is over.”
Trump owned the New Jersey Generals in the now-defunct USFL in the mid 1980s. More recently, he flirted with the idea of buying the Buffalo Bills before Terry and Kim Begula purchased the team from the late Ralph Wilson’s family. Trump’s forays into sports include ownership of the short-lived and aptly named Affliction mixed-martial arts promotion and involvement in many historic boxing matches, including Mike Tyson’s quick conquest of Michael Spinks in Atlantic City in 1988.
Trump’s remarks came the day after the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals competed in an old-school, black-and-blue division affair and on the day that the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings played in sub-zero temperatures.