The football league, which returns after an infamous three-season stint in the 1980s, is part of a larger rebranding effort surrounding its host city of Birmingham, Alabama.
After a hiatus of nearly 40 years, the United States Football League (USFL) returns tomorrow.
It coincides with the release of a new TV spot which aims to cast the city of Birmingham, Alabama — which will host the entirety of its 43-game season — in a new light.
The USFL — not to be confused with the National Football League (NFL) — was originally launched in 1983 with the aim of providing American football fans with something to watch before the college football and NFL season begins in late summer. The league fell apart after only three seasons. Many have blamed its collapse on the then-future President Donald Trump, who owned the New Jersey Generals, one of the league’s eight original teams. He pushed aggressively for the league to compete directly with the NFL, eventually convincing his fellow owners to try for a fall season in 1986. The entire organization soon went broke and dissolved.
Now the USFL is gearing up for a comeback. The league’s 2022 season begins tomorrow in Birmingham with a game between the New Jersey Generals (no longer owned by Trump) and the Birmingham Stallions. All of the games will be aired on Fox and NBC.
The new iteration of the league will include each of the eight original teams that played back in the 80s.
The revival of the USFL is part of a wider rebranding effort for the city of Birmingham — a city that’s associated in the minds of many Americans with its history of segregation and racial violence, says Jefferson County commissioner Steve Ammons. “A lot of times, when you say ‘Birmingham,’ people think of the hoses and the dogs and the sit-ins in some of the restaurants. We are a long way from that, from where we were in the 60s and 70s. We're a different place… we're so much more than our history.”
In that spirit, the city of Birmingham has released a new ad, intended to portray Birmingham as a haven for diversity, creative expression, and cosmopolitanism. The new spot, created by agency Big Communications, is oriented around the acronym BHM — the code for Birmingham’s airport — which has been retooled to convey the message: “Birmingham has more.”
It’s going to be a big year for sports in Birmingham: the start of the 2022 USFL season will be followed by the World Games, which will begin in the city in July.