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            Main article: American Football League

In 1960, after being refused entry to the NFL as an owner, Lamar Hunt led seven other men (including another snubbed by the NFL, Bud Adams) to establish a rival major Professional Football league, the American Football League. Although other rival leagues had come and gone in the early years of Professional Football, the new AFL was able to capitalize on the ever-rising popularity of the sport. Hunt's initial goal was to bring major-league Professional Football to Texas, which was home to two of the new teams. The AFL secured a television contract with ABC and filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL in 1960, but this was dismissed in 1962. While the NFL had no league-wide television profit-sharing, and home teams kept all gate receipts, the American Football League led the way in sharing of television and gate revenues across its franchises, thus securing itself financially.

A number of innovations distinguished the AFL and helped it maintain its legitimate rivalry to the NFL. A stadium game clock for the spectators (the NFL relied only on time announcements from the officials on the field), players' names on their jerseys, and a playing style geared to the attractive and flashy passing game. The AFL was inclusive of black players and actively recruited from colleges with black players historically shunned by the NFL. AFL teams further installed blacks at positions from which they were tacitly excluded in the NFL, such as quarterback[8] and middle linebacker.[9] In January 1965 there was a player boycott of the 1964 AFL All-Star Game in New Orleans, over discrimination of black players by some of the hotels and businesses in the city. This was a seminal civil-rights action and is commemorated at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The AFL also forced the NFL to expand: The Dallas Cowboys were created to counter Hunt's AFL Dallas Texans franchise. The Texans moved the franchise to Kansas City as the Chiefs in 1963; the Minnesota Vikings were the NFL franchise given to Max Winter for abandoning the AFL; and the Atlanta Falcons franchise went to Rankin Smith to dissuade him from purchasing the AFL's Miami Dolphins.

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