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Donald Trump is a big fan of Dick Butkus

Donald Trump likes the way the NFL was when Dick Butkus played. | Sun-Times Media

Donald Trump is going to make the NFL great again.

Despite record revenues and soaring ratings over the past few years, the NFL was Trump’s target during a speech Sunday in Reno, Nev., when he said “football has become soft like our country has become soft.”

Trump, as he does with everything else, went head-on with the NFL for softening what once was a violent game.

The leading Republican candidate for president started talking about Iraq before the discussion somehow turned to football.

“It’s a Sunday, who the hell wants to watch these crummy games? I just want to watch the end. … What I just said about a game, so I’m watching a game yesterday. What used to be considered a great tackle, a violent head-on [hit], a violent — if that was done by Dick Butkus, they’d say he’s the greatest player. If that were done by Lawrence Taylor — it was done by Lawrence Taylor and Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke, right? Ray Nitschke — you used to see these tackles and it was incredible to watch, right?

“Now they tackle. ‘Oh, head-on-head collision, 15 yards.’ The whole game is all screwed up. You say, ‘Wow, what a tackle.’ Bing. Flag. Football has become soft. Football has become soft. Now, I’ll be criticized for that. They’ll say, ‘Oh, isn’t that terrible.’ But football has become soft like our country has become soft. [Applause] It’s true. It’s true. The outcome of games has been changed by what used to be phenomenal, phenomenal stuff. Now these are rough guys, these are rough guys. These guys — what they’re doing is incredible, but I looked at it and I watched yesterday in particular. So many flags, right? So many flags. And I could imagine a guy like Lawrence Taylor and Dick Butkus, who was really rough, and some of these guys sitting there watching. ‘Wow, what a beautiful tackle.’ ‘Fifteen yards! That’s — the game is over.’ You can’t kick a field goal any more.”

Fact checker …

Trump tried to take on the NFL once before as owner of the USFL’s New Jersey Generals. Along with Chicago owner Eddie Einhorn, Trump had the bright idea to move the USFL’s games from the spring to fall in 1986 and go head-to-head with the NFL. “If God wanted football in the spring, he wouldn’t have created baseball,” Trump famously said at the time. It never happened and the league folded.

The NFL’s TV contracts at that time were worth about $420 million. They are now over $5 billion.