Prior to a campaign rally this week in Canton, Ohio, Republican presidential candidate and former USFL owner Donald Trump snuck in about 45 minutes to check out the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Trump, who owned the New Jersey Generals in the now defunct USFL, got a tour of the famed museum on this Tuesday. After the Pro Football Hall of Fame closed at 5 p.m., Trump arrived 30 minutes later and got a full tour of the facility including the new construction on-site.
The Trump campaign had called the museum a couple weeks earlier to schedule a visit for the candidate to coincide with his campaign rally later that evening. President and executive director of the Hall of Fame, David Baker, helped give the tour.
Baker called Trump “a big fan of football.” One part of their time together that stood out to the hall’s top man was a conversation about President Theodore Roosevelt’s involvement in the early days of football.
The man the nation affectionately called “Teddy” stepped in to help clean-up a sport that had gotten too violent. He pushed for the introduction of the forward pass which helped the game lose its bloody reputation and go mainstream.
“A generation later there were young men in Europe, Asia and Africa who were fighting for freedom,” Baker told Metro, referring to the military in World War II.
“Those kids were tougher and not just tougher but they understood a team and how to work together because they played football and competitive sports.”
He said Trump found that interesting.
Trump also shot a video for the Hall of Fame on the lessons learned from football. According to Baker he talked about “toughness, to work as a team and to never give up.”
Baker noted that Trump is a “big football fan” though the subject of the USFL and his ownership of the Generals didn’t come up.
“It was an opportunity to tell him how football and competitive sports can help ‘Make America Great Again’,” Baker said, giving a nod to Trump’s campaign slogan.
“The other thing I did, I told him [that] if he was able to win the election, that the NFL would be celebrating 100 years in three seasons – on Sept. 17, 2020, it will be celebrated. If he was President, I asked him if he would come to that.
“He said he would.”
Trump also stopped at former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly’s bust. The night before, Kelly called Baker with a message for Trump. Kelly played in the USFL for the Houston Gamblers before the league folded.
“He asked if I could convey his respect to him,” Baker said.
The tour and meeting wasn’t political in tone by any nature as the Hall of Fame has held tours for other prominent elected officials throughout the years.
“Football is bigger than politics. Republican, Democrat or independents all love football,” Baker said.
“I call it the ‘ecumenical church of football” – it brings people together. People of all parties, all persuasions are welcome at the Hall of Fame.”