"Baseball has become successful because of the excellent way in which it is organized and I can honestly say that I believe the National Football League is just as strongly entrenched as any lease in baseball. The fly-by-night birds are now on the outside looking in, and we intend to keep them there.”
No one better understood the necessity of bringing some order to early-day professional football than Joe Carr, a former Columbus, Ohio newspaperman and manager of pro football’s Columbus Panhandles. Carr's persistence finally paid off when, in 1920, the American Professional Football Association (APFA) was organized in Canton, Ohio. Jim Thorpe, the best-known name of pro football in 1920, was named the APFA's first president. But a year later Carr replaced him in the leadership role.
The next year, in 1922, the league changed its name to the National Football League. Carr strongly felt the public had the inherent right to know the league was being run honestly and capably. Immediately, he established a standard player contract modeled on the one used in baseball. He cracked down on the hiring of collegians under assumed names. When the Green Bay Packers, a new team in 1921, ignored Carr's edict, he forfeited the franchise and then renewed it under new ownership a few months later.
In 1925, Red Grange stunned the football world by joining the Chicago Bears just 10 days after his final game with the University of Illinois. Sensing that resentment in college circles would persist if such practices continued, Carr ruled, in the future, no NFL team could sign a college player until his eligibility was completed. Violators were promised a stiff fine or loss of franchise or both. Carr recognized that, to survive, the NFL needed teams in large cities. His first target was New York City and, through Joe's efforts, the New York Giants were born in 1925. The 70,000 crowd that turned out at the Polo Grounds later that year to see the Red Grange-led Bears proved big-city fans would support pro football.
A dedicated, no-nonsense administrator, Carr also served in executive positions in minor-league baseball and professional basketball during his tenure as NFL president.