The National Football League (NFL) is one of the most popular sports leagues in the world today. It has been around for more than a century.
The APFA changed its name to the National Football League (NFL) in 1922, and the rest, as they say, is history. The NFL has grown from these humble beginnings to become the world’s premier professional American football league, with 32 teams playing in two conferences and four divisions.
The NFL has seen many changes throughout its history, but the core principles of competition and team spirit remain the same. From its humble beginnings to its current status as a global sporting powerhouse, this is the brief history of the National Football League.
The Founding of the APFA (American Professional Football Association)
The history of the NFL began in 1920 when a small group of professional football teams from the American Midwest and East Coast banded together to form what was then known as the American Professional Football Association (APFA).
The teams that formed the APFA were independent franchises and had no affiliation with any league or governing body. At that time, the United States sports landscape featured many types of competition, including baseball, boxing, American football, cycling, and horse racing.
The APFA quickly grew from these humble beginnings to become the premier professional American football league in the United States. The APFA featured teams from Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in its first year.
The APFA also featured two teams from Ohio in the first APFA championship game, which was played at the end of the 1920 season. The game was played between the Akron Pros and the Canton Bulldogs, with the Bulldogs emerging victorious by a score of 10-3.
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The Name Change to the NFL (National Football League)
The APFA saw many changes and developments throughout its early years, but the most significant came in 1922 when the league changed its name to the National Football League (NFL).
This was the same year when the NFL adopted a new constitution that created a “league of mutual enjoyment and benefit,” which was a reminder that all league members would benefit from its growth and success.
In addition, the name change to the NFL signified a shift from the loose, unregulated organization of the APFA to a more centralized, regulated organization with a strong, centralized governing body.
The change from APFA to NFL was also reflected in the league’s new logo, which featured a shield with the words “National Football League” written above a football flanked by an American flag on the right and an image of a football helmet on the left. The new logo was designed to reflect the new name and the shift in focus toward a more centralized, regulated organization.
Expansion and Mergers of the NFL
The NFL expanded in terms of teams and geography during the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s. In 1926, the NFL saw its first-ever franchise relocation when the Pottsville Maroons relocated to Boston and were renamed the Boston Bulldogs.
Additionally, the NFL expanded from 15 to 18 teams during the 1926 season when it added the New York Giants and the Chicago Bears. Two years later, the NFL saw a further expansion when it added the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Philadelphia Eagles. The NFL would continue to grow in the coming decades, with the number of teams rising to 22 during the 1930s and 27 by the end of the 1940s.
During this period of expansion, the NFL saw several mergers between teams to increase the number of teams and bring geographical balance to the league. In addition, the NFL also agreed with the All-America Football Conference (AAFC). This rival football league had attracted several high-profile players away from the NFL.
The agreement between the two leagues meant that the NFL and the AAFC would respect each other’s contracts and not sign each other’s players.
The Emergence of the NFL as a Global Leader
The NFL had grown from a minor regional American football league to a global sporting powerhouse. The NFL had become a truly international sport, with games played at least once a year in countries across the globe.
The NFL’s international development began in 1934 when the league established an exhibition series between an All-Stars and a Canadian Football League team.
The NFL’s international development continued in 1939 when the league began holding exhibitions against teams from the Canadian Intercollegiate Rugby Football Union.
The NFL’s international development was significantly boosted when the league signed a deal with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) to broadcast games played in Canada. The CBC would also begin promoting a few NFL games in the United States, marking the first time an NFL game had been broadcast outside of the United States.
Finally, the NFL’s international development would come to a head in 1987 when the league signed its first agreement with a sports marketing company based in London. The deal marked the first time an NFL game was played outside of North America.
Today’s NFL is vastly different from the APFA of the 1920s. The NFL now features 32 teams, with 24 teams in the American Football Conference (AFC) and eight in the National Football Conference (NFC).
The NFL season begins with a series of exhibition games known as the preseason, followed by a regular season that runs from September to December. The playoffs start in January and end with the Super Bowl, the largest annual sporting event in the United States.
The Super Bowl is played after the regular season in early February. As a result, the NFL today has become the premier sporting league in the United States and is one of the most popular sports leagues in the world.
The NFL is also the most profitable sports league in the world, bringing in an estimated $13 billion in revenue each year. Moreover, given the NFL’s long history of change and development, it’s likely that the league will continue to grow and develop for many years to come.