The contemporary USFL is the chicken salad of spring professional football leagues. In theory, it may feature the name of two ingredients people love, but it’s a stomach-churning and second-rate mixture in practice. For example, USFL running back De’Veon Smith was cut by his Pittsburgh Maulers team because of a kerfuffle involving chicken salad.
The decision to release Smith stemmed from an incident in which Smith declined to eat chicken salad and asked a hotel worker in Birmingham, Ala., where all USFL games are being played, if they had pizza instead. When Smith was asked if it would be a problem by a hotel worker, if that was going to be a problem Smith claims he only said “yes” before walking away.
In the video captured by the USFL documentary series, Maulers coach Kirby Wilson explained the reasoning behind Smith’s release. After Smith calmly explained the situation, Wilson thanked him for his input but remained firm in his decision.
“I appreciate you sharing that, but the matter is done,” Wison says before walking away.
“Any disrespect of football or members of staff, USFL, etc. will not be tolerated,” Wilson told the documentary crew. “He crossed the line, so we had to deal with it... Someone’s hurt feelings are a distant second to the greater good of the team. And we’ve moved on and turned that page, and I’m happy we did it.”
After the clip went viral and Smith responded, the Maulers claimed Smith broke three team rules in 24 hours, including the disrespect of a cafeteria worker. The new accusations by the Maulers prompted a tweetstorm from Smith, who is still justifiably miffed.
How do we have this video? Because the USFL filmed the meeting as part of “United By Football: A Season in the USFL,” a documentary series chronicling the league’s return. Is this something we asked for? Absolutely not.
Firstly, this is the worst way for this bastardized USFL clone league to burst into the mainstream after launching over the weekend. But I guess any publicity is good publicity. Secondly, who is the target audience clamoring for behind-the-scenes reality show footage revolving around a recently rebooted USFL populated by a bunch of unknowns?
Lastly, Wilson sounds like he may have done Smith a favor. How does anyone even trust the judgment of an organization that holds chicken salad in high regard? You can’t even taste the chicken, just like you can’t recognize the USFL of old is this namesake. The XFL needs to pounce on the USFL. They may not have had everything before they shuttered their doors during the pandemic in 2020, but they probably served better food.
Smith is a veteran who has experienced abrupt endings at stages in his pro football journey, but this one has to have topped them all. He was an undrafted free agents with stints on several NFL practice squads, was a member of the AAF’s Orlando Apollos before the league ceased operations midway through its inaugural season, led the XFL in rushing yards until the league suspended operations, signed with The Spring League in October 2020 and was last released by the CFL’s BC Lions.
The contemporary USFL has no connection with the USFL that challenged the NFL for supremacy nearly 40 years ago. This league looks like it’s where careers come to die, so its most famous player should be now someone who never got to play a game.