On This Date in Sports August 20, 1920

In collaboration with the

An artist depiction of the meeting that created the NFL.

An artist depiction of the meeting that created the NFL.

Representatives from five local professional football teams meet at the Jordan and Hupmobile auto showroom in Canton, Ohio owned by Ralph Hay. The five teams present the Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Indians, Dayton Triangles, and Rock Island Independents decide to form a new league called the American Professional Football Association. The league would be renamed the National Football League two years later.

Professional football was first played at the turn of the century, with most teams being no more than sandlots clubs. The American Professional Football Association was the first attempt at a truly organized league. When the APFA’s first season began following the second meeting on September 17th the member of clubs was 14. Among the teams to join the new league was the Chicago Cardinals whose roots dated back to 1898 and the Decatur Staleys. The Staleys, run by George Halas would move to Chicago’s Wrigley Field a year later and as the league became the NFL, they would become the Chicago Bears.  That first season the APFA Championship was won by the Akron Pros, a team coached by Fritz Pollard, who was one of several African Americans to play in the new league.

In the first decade of the NFL, teams came and went quickly with many small towns in the Midwest having their own team. This included the Green Bay Packers, who joined the league in 1921. It would take a while before the NFL began finding homes in bigger cities as the New York Giants were born in 1925. In the league’s early years teams made their own schedules, which resulted in teams playing an uneven amount of games.

In 1933, the NFL began entering a modern age as the league finally had a strong central authority making schedules and creating divisions along with an end of the season championship game. That was the season a group of new teams joined the league, including the Pittsburgh Pirates who later became the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles. A year the Boston Braves, who later became the Redskins was born, while the Portsmouth Spartans became the Detroit Lions in 1934.