The NFL Needs New Ownership If It Hopes To Remain Relevant
“We can’t have the inmates running the prison.” — Bob McNair
“Football transcends race, age, gender and other elements of society and creates community by bringing people together across our great nation.” — Troy Vincent
Bob McNair and Troy Vincent were in the room during the NFL player-owner meetings when Houston Texans owner McNair uttered those world-view clarifying words.
For too long, tropes like the one Vincent included on his NFL biography where he serves as executive vice president for operations have been effective in papering over the realities of society, including on the football field and in the locker room.
Talk to anyone who has played football and ask them if everything in that sentence is true. It’s simply not.
The NFL is potentially at the beginning of a downward spiral. David Dennis analyzes this nicely in his piece for The Undefeated. We won’t see meaningful movement in changing the NFL’s structural issues unless there are significantly more different world views among the ownership of the league.
There are a number of individuals who could put together some really interesting ownership groups.
LA Rams/Oakland Raiders — Shawn Carter, Steve Stoute, Sean Combs
These hip-hop moguls have proven their brilliance in building massive businesses and drawing the masses. Carter already has experience in the sports world from Team S. Carter of Rucker Park lore to bringing the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn to launching Roc Nation Sports. Combs has been public about a dream he had of owning an NFL team. He’s been talking about starting a new league. Steve Stoute is a marketing genius who understands the nuance of injecting black culture into the mainstream.
The LA Rams would make the most sense for these three to target. Adding someone like Magic Johnson to the ownership group could make a lot of sense for an attempt to acquire the Rams. Adding someone like Andre Young would make perfect sense for approaching the Oakland Raiders.
Houston Texans — Beyonce Knowles, Aliko Dangote
There were rumors of Beyonce being involved in a bid for the Houston Rockets. Shifting her sights to the Texans would be an incredible statement considering the criticism she took bore for her Formation performance years, basically from the same people criticizing the anthem protests.
Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, announced plans earlier this year to invest between $25-to-$50 billion in the petrochemical industry in the U.S. and Europe. What better way to bookend that investment than buying the local team in the U.S.’s largest petrochemical market? Dangote has spent the past several years talking about his ambitions to buy Arsenal. Acquiring both teams would set him back a little under $5 billion, but he hasn’t been one to shy away from ambitious investments.
The Washington Football Team — Sheila Johnson, Cathy Hughes, Strive Masiyiwa
Sheila Johnson is already vice chairman of Monumental Sports, which owns Arena Football teams Washington Valor and Baltimore Brigade, along with the Washington Capitals, Wizards, and Mystics. She understands the business and I’m sure would be a welcome replacement for one of the defenders of Washington’s racist team name.
Cathy Hughes built Urban One into a wide-spanning urban media company that has reach across the U.S. with sheer smarts and persistence. Today, the Washington team plays the Dallas Cowboys, a rivalry buoyed by the primary Urban One’s primary audience. It makes perfect sense for Hughes to further drive that relationship.
Strive Masiyiwa built South Africa-based Econet Group into a massive conglomerate with similar smarts and persistence. Over the past few years, Masiyiwa has been building Kwese TV, a media property that has an exclusive partnership with the NBA, among others. I could see him leading efforts to bring the NFL to African markets like Nigeria, which has supplied the NFL with scores of talent.
The path to any of these individuals taking over ownership of a team would be an arduous process, but if the league is going to remain relevant, changing up the ownership demographics of the NFL is a must.
Thanks to Michael Cox and Adeyemi Mchunguzi for their contributions to this piece.
This piece is from Issue 16 of Black People Things, a newsletter by Kwame Som-Pimpong which highlights the ideas, data, and people shaping business today. It also appeared on Medium. It is reposted here on Moguldom.com with the permission of the author.