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Jack Donlan, the executive director of the NFL Management Council, attempted to play down the importance of the seminar by testifying that it was attended mostly by "middle management" executives, but the USFL produced evidence that a number of the NFL's most influential and powerful owners and general managers were there. NFL officials have testified that none of the strategies called for was ever implemented.
If the Harvard Study was the biggest of Myerson's "smoking guns," he also had what he said was a second bit of proof of antitrust activity in the so-called "Donlan Memorandum." Entitled "Spending the USFL dollar," it was written on Aug. 4, 1983, and suggested a strategy for driving up the salaries of low-paid USFL players with the intent of putting financial pressure on the USFL in signing new players.
The memo said: "With 'low-salaried' players making up the vast majority of USFL rosters it seems to me we can force the USFL to increase salaries of existing players or run the risk of losing them. Each dollar spent on current players is one they cannot spend on a draft choice." Rozelle denied any knowledge of the memo until the USFL filed suit, and said he "totally" disagreed with its recommendations.
Myerson has tried to show a connection between the study and a series of events that followed it, including an alleged attempt by Rozelle to co-opt New York real estate developer Donald Trump of the New Jersey Generals. Trump testified that he met Rozelle alone in March 1984 and that the commissioner promised him an NFL franchise.
"[Rozelle] stated that the NFL was going to be around for a long time, that 'You will have a very good chance [for] an NFL franchise, whether it be the Generals or some other NFL team,' and that what he wanted in return was...staying in the spring for the United States Football League and not bringing a lawsuit.... The thing that Mr. Rozelle specifically did not want was a lawsuit on antitrust grounds."
In earlier testimony, asked if he had offered Trump an NFL franchise, Rozelle said, "Never. Never."
Nor did Rozelle offer anything but denials that there was a "New York City conspiracy" among NFL owners to keep Trump's Generals out of the city. According to the conspiracy theory, NFL owners misled city and state officials into hoping the Jets might return to Shea Stadium or move into a proposed new facility—when, in fact, the Jets had no intention of coming back—and thereby kept the Generals from moving across the Hudson to New York.
While the Harvard Study and the Donlan Memo spoke most powerfully for his cause, Myerson made decidedly less headway in eliciting testimony from network executives that they felt any pressure from the NFL to keep the USFL off television. Myerson repeatedly tried to show that the NFL, using TV rights to the Super Bowl as a lever, was able to pressure and thereby control the networks. Cosell testified that Roone Arledge, the former president of ABC Sports, had once told him that he was feeling heat from the NFL because the network was televising the USFL's spring games.
Cosell: "Roone said to me, 'You know, you've got to understand, Pete'—meaning Pete Rozelle—'is all over me on the grounds that I'm sustaining the United States Football League with the spring contract.' " In earlier testimony Arledge had denied saying that. The most ABC's Spence would admit to was that the NFL was "less than enamored" with ABC's contract with the USFL.
There was no doubt, as the NFL launched its presentation last week, about what direction it would be taking. The league produced a Nov. 9, 1983, letter from Tad Taube, owner of the defunct Oakland Invaders, to fellow USFL owners in which he expressed alarm at the rising costs of the salary war with the NFL and urged salary caps. In a postscript, Taube wrote, "We have sighted the enemy and they are us!" In a 1984 letter to Taube, Myles Tannenbaum, managing general partner of the USFL Philadelphia Stars, wrote of Trump, "Donald wants to move the league into the fall so that a merger with the NFL could be forced—he told me that in so many words on two occasions."