The new USFL is coming and bringing back the Houston Gamblers. But, in true 21st century Houston pro football fashion, the launch is coming amidst all sorts of controversy, potential scandal, and other sorts of drama.
The reborn USFL, led by businessman Brian Woods, has no legal, direct, or indirect connection to the original entity that existed in the 1980s. With the only tie coming by way of the league’s legacy and names, which Woods & Co. scooped up when the trademarks lapsed, you can imagine those who believe they still have a vested interest in the original league aren’t so happy with the new one.
After the first incarnation of the USFL went down in flames, oft blamed on former President Donald Trump, there were multiple attempts to revive it. One such effort was rumored to have ultimately evolved into the original XFL.
Now, the current USFL is about to launch. They held their draft last week, and they even have a spiffy new website that is oddly lacking in all the journalistic “Ws” any information dissemination platform really needs. Either Woods and friends don’t understand basic Marketing 101 or view it as an afterthought based on their “official” website and information channels.
To make things more Jack Easterby-esque, former Miami Dolphins running back and USFL 1.0’s Jacksonville Bulls general manager Larry Csonka, joined by others associated with the original league, filed a lawsuit on February 28th to stop the launch of the new league.
The original USFL is suing the new USFL for trademark infringement, false advertising and false association related to their league name, logos and uniforms.
“The Real USFL, LLC” filed the complaint in a California federal court on Monday. The plaintiff alleges that the new USFL is “an unabashed counterfeit” and that “it has no right” to the league’s name as well as the names and logos of each of the eight teams.
The suit also contends that the new USFL “has traded on the false narrative that Fox’s League and USFL teams are the offspring of the original.”
“Fox could have easily started its own league with new teams, but instead chose to take the goodwill and nostalgia of the original league without the permission of the people who actually created it,” attorney Alex Brown said in a press release. “Fox can’t dispute that the ‘Real USFL’ marks are recognizable and valued because they’re using them and purposefully confusing its league with the original. Rather than do the right thing, Fox has chosen to try and bully the prior owners into submission. That’s not going to happen.”
This isn’t the first time that the original USFL has come after the new, Fox-backed league. They also spoke out about the league’s branding in 2021 and entered negotiations with Fox about it.
Meanwhile, in further “what is happening?” related news, the Houston Gamblers aren’t actually scheduled to play any games in Houston. That’s right. The team’s only connection to our beloved city is the name and legacy.
Not only will the City of Birmingham host the headquarters of the new league, it’ll host every game of the regular season there as well. For all the related announcements on that, click here. It’s hard to imagine all of these things aren’t the ingredients of the newest recipe for failure.
Unfortunately, that leaves us pining for the XFL’s Houston Roughnecks, who are currently scheduled to return in 2023.
If nothing else, Dallas will always have a wonderful memory of getting trounced by the Roughnecks in their inaugural season to keep them warm at night.