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Los Angeles Dons (AAFC)

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The Los Angeles Dons were an American football team in the now defunct All-America Football Conference from 1946 to 1949 that played in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Dons were the first professional football team to play a regular season game in Los Angeles, California, beating the rival Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League by two weeks.

Team history


In 1946 a new professional football league was launched to do battle with the long-established National Football League (NFL). This league, the All-America Football Conference (AAFC), included eight teams — an Eastern Division with three teams based in the state of New York and another in Miami, and a Western Division with teams in Cleveland, Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The AAFCs Southern California franchise, which was to compete directly with the newly relocated Los Angeles Rams of the NFL, was known as the Los Angeles Dons.

The leader of the ownership group was Benjamin Lindheimer, a Chicago real estate and race track executive. Other owners included Hollywood notables Louis B. Mayer, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Don Ameche.

The Dons' head coach was "Dud" DeGroot, a Stanford football player who had gone on to earn a PhD from that institution. DeGroot had served as head coach of the NFL's Washington Redskins in 1944 and 1945 before jumping over to the rival AAFC for its debut 1946 season.

The Dons shared the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with the Rams for its home games. Although never filling the mammoth facility the club made a show of offering vast numbers of tickets for sale at reasonable prices, including 40,000 reserved seats for each home contest priced at $2.50, 15,000 general admission seats costing $1.50, and 8,000 children's tickets priced at just 60 cents.

The team played its first regular season home game against the Brooklyn Dodgers on September 13, 1946 in front of a crowd just shy of 19,000 fans — the first time professional football had ever been played in the Coliseum. The Dons took a first quarter lead on a 55-yard pass from quarterback "Chuckin' Charlie" O'Rourke to Bernie Nygren and never looked back, triumphing over the visitors from New York by a score of 20-14. The Dons went on to open the 1946 campaign 3 wins and a tie before hitting a rough spell and finishing the inaugural season out of the playoffs, mired in third place in the AAFC's Western Division with a record of 7-5-2.


For most of their existence, the Dons compiled an average record, and never qualified for the AAFC playoffs. This was mainly because they were in the same division as the league's two most powerful teams, the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers. Unlike the Browns, 49ers and Baltimore Colts, the Dons were not one of the AAFC teams that remained intact when the AAFC merged with the National Football League in 1950: they merged with the crosstown Rams of the older league after the 1949 season.


One Dons player, William Radovich, formerly of the NFL Detroit Lions, filed a lawsuit against the NFL after being blacklisted from playing or working in it afterwards. It led to the Supreme Court ruling, in the case of Radovich v. National Football League, that professional football, unlike baseball, was subject to antitrust laws.