The origins of the National Football League (NFL) started in 1921 with Joseph F. Carr.1 During the 1930s, Carr still held the torch for professional football and made some rules along the way to popularize the sport. Carr believed that collegiate football and professional football should be separate, both on and off the field. The NFL’s “hands-off” policy would prohibit teams from signing college football players until the student graduated. This policy ensured that college students were focused on their studies, rather than dropping out of college to play professionally. Carr conferred that there were “ill feeling[s] between college authorities and the league,” that there was a, “wild scramble to sign outstanding college stars [because] they “jumped” their schools and did not complete their education.”2 Though it was not just the relationship with colleges that Carr wanted to patch up, it was also the spectators.
To attract more fans, Carr desired to have the professional football games to have as much action as possible to interest the spectators.3 ‘It was estimated that approximately 750,000 spectators, or an average of about 13,000 per game, paid to see the ten teams in the league play 57 games.’4 With the increasing attendance record the NFL has been in the black on their balance sheets, despite the effects of the Great Depression. To capitalize on this upward trend, in 1934, Steuart A. Godman made cooperative agreements with Carr and the NFL to create his own organized league, called the American Football League (AFL). Godman mentioned that ‘he desired to bring together the two leagues in the arrangement similar to the major baseball leagues to protect the rosters of the players and the interest of the fans.’5 With the addition of another professional football league, there has to be additional rules in place to create uniformity and equality.
Carr believed that the football franchises that formed served two purposes: one, being to popularize the interest for ‘pro’ football and the other being that it would bring independently-operated teams under the rules of the NFL league.6 The way that the NFL would address equality amongst the teams would be known as the waiver rule. This rule was imposed because it was complained within the NFL that the richer, metropolitan, teams were grabbing all the good players. The solution would be that the waiver rule would ‘permit the lowest club first chance at any man released by a rival outfit.’7 Within 1935-36, franchise owners would adopt a plan to draft college players. Proposed by Bert Bell, the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles and future NFL commissioner, the National Football League draft would allow teams to select players in inverse order of their finish the previous season, which would give weaker teams the advantage of signing better college players.8 Throughout the rest of the Great Depression, professional football has been stealing the spotlight in American professional sports and winning the hearts of the fans.