Donald Trump keeps bringing up football on the campaign trail, but his history with the sport, from his 1980s United States Football League experience to Monday’s riffing with Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan , is awkward.
“Amazing. He won the championships in New York twice and always had brutal teams,” Trump said after Ryan introduced him at a rally at Buffalo’s First Niagara Center. The GOP front-runner was referring to Ryan’s tenure with the New York Jets. The only problem with the statement was that the Jets never won any championships under Ryan.
The Jets reached the AFC championship game twice under him, but lost both times, failing to get to the Super Bowl. Last year, Ryan’s first at the helm of the Bills, Buffalo went 8-8 and failed to make the playoffs.
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And Trump wasn’t done talking football: “We are here to discuss lots of things. Something a lot of people didn’t know. I bid $1 billion for the Buffalo Bills. I bid a billion.”
Trump was referring to his attempt to buy the team in 2014, when he was outbid by Terry and Kim Pegula, who paid $1.4 billion for the franchise .
He told Sports Illustrated last year that if he had bought the team, he probably wouldn’t be running for president.
“I’m glad, because if I bought the Buffalo Bills, I probably would not be doing what I’m doing now, which is much more important,” he said.
[Trump fires up Buffalo before N.Y. primary]
Had he been successful, it would have been his second foray into pro football. He bought the USFL’s New Jersey Generals before the 1984 season from Oklahoma oil magnate, J. Walter Duncan. Trump’s Generals were fairly successful on the field, going to the playoffs twice and losing in the first round.
But Trump’s push to have the league go head-to-head with the NFL by moving its season from spring to fall in 1986 is widely considered a primary reason the fledgling league folded after just three seasons, as ESPN has documented .
Then there was the Joe Paterno thing. Last week, speaking to a crowd in Pittsburgh , Trump said of the legendary Penn State football coach, “I know a lot about Pennsylvania, and it’s great. How’s Joe Paterno?”
Paterno died in 2012, at age 85, after being fired by the university in the wake of a critical report that he didn’t do enough to prevent his long-time assistant coach Jerry Sandusky from sexually abusing minors in the football program’s midst.
Trump later said he was referring to the statue of “Joe Pa” in front of the university’s football stadium in Happy Valley.