ROCK ISLAND INDEPENDENTS, original NFL team 1920. Quality cotton shirt, free shipping.

Item Description

Quality cotton t-shirt, graphics front and back:

Team front in green, league pigskin emblem back.

Free shipping.

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The Rock Island Independents® lasted 20 years, before the fatal decision departing the fledgling NFL for a new enterprise, the American Football League*.

The Independents had been a stable organization with a solid following. The best years were the late teens, seasons leading up to the formation of the NFL (originally known as the American Professional Football Association) in 1920.

Akin to another team owner (Leo Lyons of the Rochester Jeffersons), Walter Flanigan had first joined Rock Island as a player, guiding the outfit for a sustained run at commercialism. Both men attended the charter meeting of the APFA in Canton. 

But like every pigskin enterprise before World War II, profitability proved elusive. This was the preamble, when the college game ruled the upright roost. No self-respecting graduate would put off a traditional career for leather skullcap barnstorming, erratic pay and the absence of co-ed cheer. To make a living, better to place a wager from the spectator's perch than putting limbs and equilibrium at risk out on the field.  

When college star Red Grange ("The Galloping Ghost") joined the Chicago Bears and attracted a legion of fans and big money to the NFL, he and business partner CC Pyle went for broke a year later by creating the AFL in 1926 -- based in the East Coast population center. 

Rock Island rolled with the opportunity to switch leagues. But after just one season, the upstart league folded -- as did the Independents. Considering that all but a pair of the NFL's original 14 teams would perish, Rock Island's move was a gambit for survival. 

The saga has a bookend: In the twilight of his vast competitive career, the greatest athlete of the era, one Jim Thorpe, suited up Independents' green, foretelling the end of two impressive gridiron institutions.  

A sharp shirt for Rock Island's emerald stamp on the NFL.

*Not to be confused with the American Football League founded by Lamar Hunt in 1959, which merged with the NFL a decade later.

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$19.00