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Trump retreats from claim that NFL sent letter regarding debates

Republican National Convention: Final Day

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party’s nomination. An estimated 50,000 people came to Cleveland for the event, including hundreds of protesters and thousands of members of the media. The four-day convention ran from July 18-21. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

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Presidential candidate Donald Trump doesn’t like the fact that two of the three scheduled debates conflict with NFL prime-time games. He claimed in an interview with ABC’s This Week that the NFL sent him a letter calling the move “ridiculous.”

The league called him on it, saying no letter was sent. Apparently learning a lesson from the last time he took on the NFL (as owner of the USFL’s New Jersey Generals), Trump has backed down.

“Mr. Trump was made aware of the conflicting dates by a source close to the league,” Trump’s campaign said in a statement to This Week.

The difference between being “made aware” of the conflict by a “source close to the league” and having the NFL officially express disapproval of the schedule in a letter is significant, obviously. And it doesn’t take much for a “source close to the league” to make Trump “aware” of the conflict. The source could have been his friend Tom Brady. The source could have been three-time former NFL coach Mike Shanahan, who hosted a fundraiser for Trump in Colorado. The source could have been one of the various owners he knows. The source could have been Paul Hicks, former NFL P.R. chief and father of Trump’s current P.R. chief, Hope Hicks.

Regardless, someone provided Trump with open and obvious information about the scheduling of two debates on nights when the NFL typically plays games: Sunday and Monday. That’s a long way from an official effort to get the debates moved that was reduced to writing, printed on NFL letterhead, and signed by Roger Goodell or some other high-level league executive.