Earlier this month, The Spring League’s CEO Brian Woods announced that – along with FOX Sports – the group plans to bring back the USFL in 2022.
Since January, trademarks for the 1980s spring league had been acquired by Woods and TSL, sparking questions about their intentions. Now that we know what the plan is, some of the former executives from the original USFL have spoken out, most notably Steve Ehrhart.
Ehrhart was the league’s final executive director, and was in charge of the Memphis Showboats, who famously had Hall of Fame DE Reggie White among their roster.
Since then Ehrhart has gone on to be the executive director of the Autozone Liberty Bowl, and currently working on an event to recognize recently enshrined QB Peyton Manning.
He’s taken time away from that to speak out about the new version of his old league, creating some controversy in the process. In a recent article published by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Mr Ehrhart had this to say about the recent announcement:
“I was surprised when I heard about it this morning. I want to dig into it and see who they’re claiming they acquired these rights [to the name] from. Because it didn’t come from any legitimate source.”Steve Ehrhart
The site for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), has The Spring League listed as the owner/applicant for every live – and even 2 dead – USFL trademarks. So Ehrhart’s begged the question, what was missing?
I reached out to Mr Ehrhart over this past weekend, and thankfully was able to speak to the football legend about his previous statement.
The first thing he told me was that he didn’t want to be antagonistic, nor did he want to get involved in a legal battle over who owns the IP. His message was clear:
Protect the legacy.
“After we heard the announcement, I started getting calls from former team presidents, and guys like Carl Peterson (Former KC Chiefs exec), who put in the blood, sweat, tears, and fortunes that were poured into the USFL, wondering what was going on, but nobody had contacted us. There’s a lot more to starting a league than having a lawyer get the trademarks. You’ve gotta have the good will of the people, and the right people on board if you want it to succeed. Were trying to protect the legacy.”Steve Ehrhart
He also mentioned the foils and follies of recent spring football leagues, and how they tried to go into starting up, but also never considered what it really took be ensure success.
“Talk to Vince McMahon, talk to the Ebersoles, they went into it with hundreds of millions of dollars and the best intentions, but we see how that ended. There’s a strong legacy out here for the USFL. We’ve been around for 40 some-od years, still doing merchandising, and all of that. I just think it would help him [Brian Woods] to embrace that. Get all the ammunition he can to be successful. We’d just like a call to see how we can get started again, and how we can work together.”Steve Ehrhart
It may have come across like he was challenging the legality of using the USFL name and logos, but in our conversation he said it wasn’t that. It’s about the history that comes with the name. And they’re open to working with him, if he wants to.
Woods didn’t comment on what Ehrhart’s message was when I passed it on to him, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there can’t be a working relationship as this thing progresses.
Over this past week more teams names and trademarks have been snatched up and created with cities like Austin, Orlando, Boston, Memphis. They even finally grabbed the Jacksonville Bulls TM.
However this works out between the new USFL and the old guard, we hope the league succeeds. Despite the results of the AAF and the newer XFL, fans showed they want spring football. And it’s been beneficial to the players.
Ehrhart has a point. It’s rarely a bad idea to learn from the experience of others. And preserving the legacy that the guys from the 80s version should be just as important.
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