When Was The NFL Founded? NFL History

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When Was The NFL Founded? – The National Football League (NFL), formerly the American Professional Football Association, is a significant American professional gridiron football organization created in 1920 in Canton, Ohio. Jim Thorpe, an excellent American athlete who was also a league member, served as its first president. In 1922, the current name was chosen.


The league began to play in 1920, with five teams from Ohio (Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Tigers, Columbus Panhandlers, and Dayton Triangles), four teams from Illinois (Chicago Tigers, Decatur Staleys, Racine Cardinals [the Cardinals were based in Chicago but took the name of a local street], and Rock Island Independents), two teams from Indiana (Hammond Pros and Muncie Flyers), two teams from New York (Buffalo Only the Cardinals and the Decatur Staleys remain from the founding franchises: the Cardinals departed Chicago for St. Louis after the 1959 season and relocated to Arizona in 1988; the Decatur Staleys moved to Chicago in 1921 and changed their name to the Bears a year later.

After many years of insecurity and rivalry from competing leagues, the NFL emerged as the most potent American professional football league. In the 1960s, the American Football League (AFL) posed the greatest significant threat to its dominance. In 1970, the NFL and the AFL merged to form a 26-team league known as the NFL. The company has grown four times since then, adding six additional franchises.


Legendary American-Indian Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe, player-coach of the Canton Bulldogs, and Leo Lyons, owner of the Rochester Jeffersons, a sandlot football team, came up with the idea for the National Football League. At the time, both the Jeffersons and the Buffalo All-Stars were on the road in Ohio. After Lyons’ Jeffersons fell heavily to Thorpe’s Bulldogs in a 1917 match, Lyons urged Thorpe to form a league. Lyons wanted to build a sport that matched Major League Baseball in popularity. Owing to the Spanish flu quarantines and the loss of players due to World War I, the Bulldogs and most other clubs had to cease operations or reduce their schedules to local teams in 1918. New York’s teams continued to operate and recruited whatever players were still available.

Lyons returned to his native state of New York the following year, challenging a group of professional teams in Buffalo to a championship in 1919; the Buffalo Prospects accepted the challenge and won. Canton was already a member of the unofficial Ohio League, which included the Bulldogs, Massillon Tigers, Shelby Blues, and Ironton Tanks; Thorpe persuaded Bulldogs manager Ralph Hay and other Ohio teams to play in a league-style format in 1919, after which the team barnstormed against the Detroit Heralds of Detroit, MI, and the Hammond Pros of Chicago, IL. Other autonomous clusters of groups were playing around the same time in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Indiana; Pennsylvania and New York City also had teams, but none contributed to the NFL when it was founded.

Ohio’s teams, which were often regarded as the finest in the country at the time, agreed to the plan despite rising costs: multiple bidding wars in the early 1900s, both in Pennsylvania and Ohio, had severely harmed the sport, and another bidding war was set to erupt unless something was done. Teams reasoned that adopting a national league would remove the habit of plundering other teams’ rosters and concentrating elite talent in a few groups, distributing talent more equitably and efficiently and lowering costs for each section while maintaining a high-level product on the field.

A New League is Born

The league was founded in August 1920, in a Hupmobile dealership in Canton, Ohio, as the American Professional Football Conference, with just the Ohio League teams initially participating. However, other groups declined. [2] The league was renamed the American Professional Football Association a month later, with Buffalo and Rochester from the New York league and Detroit, Hammond, and several other teams from adjacent circuits. The eleven founding teams first agreed on player poaching and the crowning of a champion at the end of the season. Thorpe was chosen president while still playing for the Bulldogs. Only four of the original clubs completed the 1920 season, with the Akron Pros winning the first championship. In 1921, the league expanded to 22 teams, including more New York clubs, but membership remained unstable throughout the 1920s, and the company was not a big national sport.

The organization’s name was changed for the final time to the National Football League on June 24, 1922.
The Chicago Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) and the Decatur Staleys (now the Chicago Bears) are the only two founders. The Green Bay Packers franchise, created in 1919 and never moved, did not begin league play until 1921. In 1930, the Portsmouth Spartans joined the NFL, and in 1934, they moved to Detroit to become the Lions. [4] [link is no longer active] The Indianapolis Colts have multiple antecedents, including one of the league’s original clubs, the Dayton Triangles. However, they are regarded as a separate franchise from previous teams and were created in 1953 as the Baltimore Colts. Although the original NFL clubs for Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago, and Detroit no longer exist, new franchises have subsequently been founded. Early championships were given arbitrarily, as some teams played more or fewer games than others, or planned games against non-league, amateur, or university teams; this led to a tiebreaker in 1921, a contested title in 1925, and the scheduling of an impromptu indoor playoff game in 1932.

On July 8, 1933, two new teams, the Pirates and the Eagles were admitted to the NFL during league meetings before the 1933 season.

The NFL now had ten teams, and it was divided into eastern and Western Divisions at the suggestion of George Preston Marshall and with Halas’ backing. The Philadelphia Eagles, Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, Boston Redskins, and Pittsburgh Pirates were all in the Eastern Division. The Chicago Bears, Portsmouth Spartans, Chicago Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, and Cincinnati Reds were all in the Western Division. Furthermore, the two owners persuaded the NFL to hold a championship game in which the two division winners would face off.

Except for the Green Bay Packers, all of the small-town teams had gone to or been replaced by big-city teams by 1934, and even Green Bay had established a support relationship with the much bigger Milwaukee. Rather than come up with original team names in the league’s early years, several NFL teams adopted the name of a Major League Baseball team in the same city. For the first seven years of its existence, the Pittsburgh Steelers were known as the “Pittsburgh Pirates,” while other clubs such as the Brooklyn Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, and Washington Senators all played in the NFL. [7] In 1936, the first annual draft of collegiate players was held. [requires citation] On October 22, 1939, the Philadelphia Eagles defeated 23-14 to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Ebbets Field in the first televised NFL game.

However, it was during this period that the NFL became segregated: between 1933 and 1945, there were no black players in professional football in the United States, owing to the influence of admitted bigot George Preston Marshall, who joined the league as the owner of the Boston Braves in 1932. Other NFL owners modeled their strategies after Marshall’s to appease southern fans. Even after the league’s race barrier was overcome in the 1950s, Marshall’s Washington Redskins remained all-white until the Kennedy administration compelled them to integrate in 1962. [10] Despite his racism, Marshall was inducted into the NFL-inspired Pro Football Hall of Fame as a charter member.

College football was the more popular sport at the time, but by WWII, pro football had begun to challenge college football for fan interest. Along with other rule modifications and innovations, the T formation resulted in a faster-paced, higher-scoring game. The league also grew beyond its eastern and midwestern roots; in 1945, the Cleveland Rams relocated to Los Angeles, becoming the first central league sports team. [11] The NFL expanded to thirteen teams in 1950 when it welcomed three teams from the defunct All-America Football Conference — the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, and Baltimore Colts. Pro football ultimately established itself as a significant sport in the 1950s, when league games were televised on national television.

Black players

The NFL’s predecessor, the American Professional Football Association, included many minority players, including African-American players, when it was founded in 1920. Between 1920 and 1926, nine black players played for NFL teams. Due to the large number of good players developed by the Carlisle Indian School football team, it was customary for clubs (both inside and outside the NFL) to publicly advertise Native Americans; in fact, the Oorang Indians of 1922-1923 were exclusively made up of Native Americans.

The talent pool of Indians had dried up since Carlisle had closed in 1918. Meanwhile, before the 1927 season, all black players in the NFL were dismissed (including future Hall of Famer Fritz Pollard) for unknown reasons. From 1928 to 1932, the league had only one black player per season, and none of them played more than two seasons. Joe Lillard and Ray Kemp were the only two in 1933. For fighting, Lillard was released by the Chicago Cardinals, while Kemp went on to have a successful coaching career. The moves made the league all-white, and Boston Redskins owner George Preston Marshall allegedly used his influence to keep it that way for the next several years, even though each team’s internal politics and cronyism, as well as the rising tide of racism in the United States as a whole, also played a role. Even during the war years, when much of the NFL’s talent was sent overseas fighting in World War II, players like Kenny Washington who remained in the country were overlooked in favor of white players with crippling medical issues like partial blindness.

The NFL only integrated when the Cleveland Rams sought to relocate to Los Angeles and the venue, the Los Angeles Coliseum, required them to do so. Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, two black players, were then signed. [12] Other NFL clubs soon did the same, but Marshall refused to integrate the Redskins until the Kennedy administration forced him to do so as a condition of utilizing D.C. Stadium (now RFK Stadium). Despite his open bias, Marshall was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. The Cleveland Browns of the All-America Football Conference, a rival Professional Football organization, hired two black players in 1946. By 1960, the NFL’s new competitor, the American Football League, had actively recruited players from smaller, primarily black institutions that had previously been virtually neglected by the NFL, allowing black athletes from those schools to play professional football. Early AFL teams had a higher percentage of black players than their NFL rivals.

Despite the NFL’s earlier segregationist laws, the apparent competitive advantage of AFL teams with open signing procedures impacted the NFL drafts. By 1969, a comparison of championship team photographs from the two leagues revealed that the AFL’s Chiefs had 23 black players out of 51 (45 percent), while the NFL’s Vikings had 11 black players out of 42 (26 percent). According to reports, one driving aspect in the Chiefs’ victory over the Vikings was their pride in their diverse roster. According to recent surveys, the current, post-merger NFL is roughly 57–61 percent non-white (including African Americans, Polynesians, non-white Hispanics, Asians, and mixed-race people).

The Merger

By the middle of the 1960s, player pay had risen due to increased competition, which included separate college drafts. In 1965, University of Alabama quarterback Joe Namath signed with the New York Jets rather than the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals for $427,000. This was the most high-profile contest and a significant boost to the AFL. The NFL’s New York Giants broke an unwritten agreement in 1966 by signing placekicker Pete Gogolak, who was under contract with the American Football League’s Buffalo Bills. Then-AFL Commissioner Al Davis launched a campaign to lure players away from the NFL, particularly quarterbacks, but behind the scenes, several NFL team owners were working to end the fierce competition.

Several NFL teams, led by Dallas Cowboys General Manager Tex Schramm, requested a meeting with AFL owners to discuss a merger. On June 8, 1966, the two leagues announced their merger agreement, which Schramm and AFL founder Lamar Hunt arranged. The leagues would host a Common Draft and a World Championship Game between the two league champions at the end of the season (later known as the Super Bowl and reverting to simply an NFL championship game).

New Orleans was awarded an NFL franchise after Louisiana’s federal Congressmen lobbied for the passage of Public Law 89-800, which allowed the merger and exempted the action from Anti-Trust laws. An act of Congress was required to authorize the monopoly that would be established. The leagues amalgamated entirely in 1970, forming the National Football League, organized into two conferences with an equal number of clubs. A financial settlement was reached, with the AFL teams paying $18 million over 20 years.

The NFL subsequently embraced many of the AFL’s innovations, including the on-field game time, names on player jerseys, recruiting at small and primarily black colleges, gate and television revenue-sharing, the introduction of southern franchises, and more wide-open offensive rules.

Modern era

The NFL’s dominance as America’s premier spectator sport and its crucial role in American culture was cemented in the 1970s and 1980s. The Super Bowl has become an unofficial national holiday and, in most years, the highest-rated television event. Monday Night Football, which debuted in 1970 and combined sports and entertainment, attracted large audiences. In the late 1970s, rule revisions assured a fast-paced game with plenty of passing to appeal to the casual viewer.

The World Football League was the first post-merger threat to the NFL’s dominance, and it was successful in luring some top NFL talent to their league in 1974, prompting the NFL to make a few rule modifications. The company, however, was forced to disband halfway through the 1975 season due to financial difficulties. The Birmingham Vulcans and Memphis Southmen both attempted but failed to transition from the WFL to the NFL.

The NFL’s most robust post-merger competition came in the United States Football League, founded in the early 1980s. The United States Football League (USFL) was a well-funded competition with big-name players and a national broadcast deal. The USFL, on the other hand, was unable to earn a profit and was forced to disband after three years. The USFL won an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. Still, the settlement was small, and mismanagement (most notably, a planned transition of the league’s unique spring football season to a fall head-to-head competition) led to the league’s demise.

The XFL was founded in 2001 as an attempt by Vince McMahon and NBC, which had lost the NFL broadcast rights for that year, to compete with the league; however, the XFL only lasted one season before folding. The XFL, unlike the WFL and USFL, had no impact on the NFL’s regulations or franchise locations (its attempts at innovation were frequently mocked), although a few NFL players utilized it to relaunch their careers.

The United Football League, which began play in 2009, had planned to take on the NFL directly with NFL-comparable salaries and teams in New York City and Los Angeles. However, the UFL never played in those cities (an ostensibly New York team played in Long Island and New Jersey), cut its salaries, and instead chose to complement the NFL with teams in Las Vegas, Orlando, and Hartford. Several other upstart leagues (such as the AAFL, UNGL, and New USFL) are also in the works, but none have yet taken the field due to financial and organizational issues; all of these proposed leagues will play in the spring and have no aspirations to compete with the NFL for talent or spectators.

A piece in USA Today on August 31, 2007, revealed the first revisions to the league’s shield logo since 1970, which began with the 2008 season. The NFL letters were changed to a straight, serifed font, and the number of stars in the logo was reduced from 23[14] (which were found to have no meaning beyond being decorative) to eight (for each of the league’s divisions). The football was repositioned in the manner of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and the NFL letters were changed to a straight, serifed font. Television and digital media, as well as apparel, were all considered in the redesign. The shield logo was created in the 1940s.


New York Giants

Giants was created in 1925 by Tim Mara, the founding owner, with a $500 investment. To distinguish themselves from the baseball team of the same name, they are still legally known as the “New York Football Giants.” They were one of the earliest teams in the National Football League, which was just five years old at the time.

Chicago Bears

The Decatur (Illinois) Staleys were their original name. A.E. Staley, a businessman, formed the Bears team in 1920. After Staley ceded the young franchise to him, George Halas, the new team’s player, and coach moved to Chicago in 1921.

Arizona Cardinals

They are one of only two founder members of the National Football League still in existence, along with the Chicago Bears. The Cardinals are also the country’s oldest surviving professional football team. In 1960, the franchise relocated to St. Louis; then, in 1988, it relocated to Phoenix, Arizona. This is the first time I’ve seen an NFL squad.

Green Bay Packers

Earl “Curly” Lambeau and George Whitney Calhoun, former high school football opponents, created the Green Bay Packers on August 11, 1919. They were the last of the “small-town teams” prevalent in the NFL during its early years in the 1920s and 1930s.

Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions, an American professional football team headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, first played in Portsmouth, Ohio, in 1928 as the Portsmouth Spartans. In 2020, they will begin their 92nd season, making them one of the oldest franchises in the National Football League.

Washington Redskins

The Washington Redskins, sometimes known as the Boston Braves, are one of the NFL’s oldest and most storied franchises, having been created in 1932. In 1933, the squad renamed the Redskins. The team relocated to Washington, D.C. in 1937, where they won the first of five world titles.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles’ history dates back to 1933. The Eagles have appeared in the Super Bowl three times, losing their first two outings but winning third in 2018. They have won three NFL championships in four seasons, the predecessor to the Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Arthur J. Rooney formed the Pittsburgh Steelers on July 8, 1933. The Pirates were the team’s name until 1940, making them the seventh-oldest NFL team to this day. The success of Pittsburgh in the 1970s was the polar opposite of the Steelworkers’ early years.


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