Corporate ownership may be the only way to fix certain issues with NFL teams

Getty Images

The NFL consists of 32 businesses operating under Big Shield. One is a corporation. The other 31 are, basically, monarchies purchased by oligarchs.

The NFL can nudge, prod, advise these American oligarchs to do better, to do something other than what they want to do. But no one can make them do anything other than what they want to do. It’s one of the privileges of being a multi-billionaire surrounded by an army of sycophants.

The proof is in the pudding. When it comes to hiring practices, the underrepresentation of minority head coaches and General Managers is obvious. So obvious that NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent has publicly admitted that a “double standard” exists for Black coaches, and that the system is “broken.”

It’s broken because the oligarchs will always do what they want to do, with no real accountability. They want what they want, they get what they want. Whether it’s the coach they want, the workplace environment they want, the players they want, the draft position they want. And if they don’t get what they want, they do something about it.

How can the system ever change when the league is made up of 31 emperors who have no one to tell them they possibly are riding down the street butt-naked on a horse? The system will change only if these teams operate like corporations, or actually become corporations.

The 31 non-corporations will never actually behave like corporations, because one person will always have final say over any and every issue. It makes far more sense for the teams to become corporations, publicly owned (like the Packers) and publicly traded (unlike the Packers).

A corporation has a board of directors, which can be made up of broad, diverse representatives of the community in which the team is headquartered. A corporation has layers of officers and executives. A corporation has committees to oversee matters such as hiring. A corporation will have an appropriate human resources department, so that workplace misconduct can be quickly addressed and rectified.

How would it work? One team at a time. If/when at least 24 of 32 owners decide to permit individual teams to adopt a corporate structure, a team that otherwise would be sold to another oligarch would be sold through an initial public offering of shares, which would then be bought and sold and traded, with share prices going up and down based on earnings and other factors that drive stock values every day.

It would likely take many years for all or most of the teams to become corporations. One by one, however, plenty of the teams would eventually move in that direction.

There’s another reason for corporate ownership. With the value of teams constantly increasing, it’s becoming harder and harder to find people with enough money to buy controlling interest in NFL teams. Which means that the driving factor as to the owner of a given team will be whether the person has the money to buy a team, not whether the buyer is the right person to run a team.

Think about that for a second. What makes an owner qualified to own a team other than having enough money to buy the team, or being in the right genealogical position to inherit the team from a spouse, a parent, or a sibling? How does that blind question of being in the right place at the right time with the right amount of money make someone suited and fit to own and operate an NFL team?

But by virtue of wealth, privilege, and power, oligarchs acquire teams and run them as they see fit. As a result, the Washington Commanders had an inherently toxic workplace, with no effective means to rectify the situation. As a result, the NFL’s franchise have authored a troubling history of biased employment practices when it comes to the hiring, retention, and compensation of minorities for key positions like head coach and General Manager. As a result, one team currently is the target of a claim that the oligarch in charge of it coveted the top pick in the 2020 draft badly enough to offer the former head coach $100,000 for each game he lost.

While corporations aren’t immune from bad behavior, it’s far easier for bad behavior to be quickly rectified when it happens. It’s also much easier to avoid situations where one person has full and complete power to do whatever the person wants to do, whenever the person wants to do it, however the person wants to do it.

From the Washington situation to the issues raised by Brian Flores’s racial discrimination lawsuit to the controversy sparked by Flores’s claim that he was offered $100,000 to lose games on purpose, these are the kinds of things that are less likely to happen if an oligarch isn’t running the show with impunity — and without guardrails.

55 responses to “Corporate ownership may be the only way to fix certain issues with NFL teams

  1. The NFL will never allow a corporation to own another NFL team. Corporate governance means transparency.

    Everything described in this article as a “bug” of the current system is actually a feature to each of the 31 NFL owners.

  2. Ridiculous. Even if teams did become publicly traded the majority stockholder is going to pack the board with their cronies.

  3. Have to be careful with this idea, because part of what makes the NFL great is individual owners who put aside optimal business practices and maximizing profit to win games. If you go to all corporate ownership you could end up with a very boring NFL.

  4. I actually really like this idea. I’d go in if there were dividends. It’ll never happen but very progressive thinking.

  5. The Amazon Jaguars, Microsoft Patriots, Starbucks Seahawks, Coca-Cola Falcons, SXSW Cowboys, Goop Chargers, etc etc., gonna love this stage of dystopia!

  6. The Seahawks are a division of a corporation called Vulcan. Pete is a Vice President. You just don’t know it.

  7. And aren’t we often talking about the lack of accountability around here with the one corporate team, and teams with muddled ownership situations like Denver? How about we try a league that actually cares about trying to root out corruption and bad actors instead of being run by and protecting them?

  8. When this becomes a class action the NFL will have a real problem. So far it’s only Flores and Hue Jackson. If Tomlin stood with them as the only African American head coach, it would send a very powerful message.

    With that being said, how many franchises have never had an African American head coach? How many franchises have never had an African American franchise QB? The Giants have not had either in my lifetime. To me, that’s a problem.

  9. How do you defeat monarchies owned by oligarcies? Corporations. (Now read that out loud to your friends and co-workers).

  10. Yes, we don’t have enough corporate news and their own virtue signaling, we need them to own our favorite teams.

  11. The Packers are a corporation. The Packers have had one African American head coach, fired after one 8-8 season.

  12. Aren’t all the teams individually held as corporations controlled by the individual or family?

  13. Marvis Lewis went 13 years without winning a playoff game. Three 3 years later the Bengals are in the Super Bowl. Maybe they had 13 year tank program?

  14. let’s see corps are taking over every aspect of life, from politics to entertainment etc., they lack accountability and promote nefarious behavior, so yeah, let’s make more corps and give evne more power and less accountability to the uber wealthy, jiminy, think it through

  15. We’re headed there either way. Not because of management style but because of the cost of entry. It’s far easier to get a group of investors to spend $5B than it is to get a single majority owner with 2-3 minority investors.

  16. Here’s an even better idea. Not only a corporation, but a publicly traded organization! This way the fans can actually own a team and take part in votes. that way when someone buys a share, it actually means something as opposed to that scam stock sale in Green Bay

  17. A bunch of guys started a football league and more guys joined in over time who wanted in on the action. If you don’t like what they put forward, tune out, don’t suggest they should sell out. 15 years ago or whenever it was, the NFL instituted the “Rooney Rule.” All of the sudden around 2020 corporations started to institute similar hiring practices. I am not saying the NFL is not flawed or racism does not exist, but let’s not pretend corporations are thought leaders when it comes to such matters.

  18. This would be a nightmare for many of the owners. What would happen to a guy like Woody Johnson? The dude has zero work experience outside of owning a football team, cutting checks to charities, and collecting checks from his families long time invest funds.

    We really need to think about the people who would be adversely effected. We can’t just throw people out on the streets with no real world skills.

  19. That’s kind of funny in terms of potential names. For example my team and home state:

    Dunkin’ Patriots
    Gillette Patriots
    Reebok Patriots
    TJX Patriots
    General Electric Patriots
    Seattle had a solid selection.

    Amazon Seahawks
    T-Mobile Seahawks
    Starbucks Seahawk
    Boeing Seahawks

    And my wife’s bears could be the sears roebucks bears. Much like sears being bad, kind of lines up with the bears 😂 or the Binny’s Liquor depot Bears.

  20. Owners are in bed with the Networks and Vegas … Coaches and players are merely a Presentation Of The National Football League to any fan who pays a ticket or tunes in …

  21. Capitalism failure. Too much power concentrated in the hands of a few who are not accountable to anyone. Rich NFL owners are free to discriminate during hiring with little consequences.

  22. This would only happen if the League agreed, but if threatened enough by Congress because of all the scandals, then maybe. And it wouldn’t have to be the case that mega-corporations become the ultimate owners. Rules could be put in place so that each team is its own corporation and cannot be acquired by another corporation. It’s also easy to ensure there is no one controlling shareholder.

    I wonder what would happen if the Bowlens went to the NFL and said this is what they wanted to do. I would think they could raise just as much money as in a private sale, and since they actually live in the Denver area, they would probably be local heroes for doing the sale this way.

  23. It will never change as long as the big $$$ keep coming in from media, sponsors, and fans. With huge income that only increases with no restriction there is no incentive to change. The only influence they will have is when that slows down or stops and hits them in the wallet. That’s when they’ll look at something different.

    But in reality? The NFL will not allow that to happen. Too many emperors with the big emperor in their pocket.

  24. OK, so multi billion dollar corporations never trample the rights of their employees or of their customers? That never happens. I’ll make the statement that multi billion dollar corporations trample the rights of people much more often than one individual owner does

  25. Here is something no one wants to answer: “the underrepresentation of minority head coaches and General Managers is obvious”. If that is the case, what would be a proper representation? Normally if a problem is identified, it is based on a clear goal that has not been achieved. What is that number? When do we reach a point where minorities are properly represented?

  26. The proposal makes total sense. After all, it is well documented that corporations are benevolent and altruistic, always looking out for the well-being of their employees. Large corporations have never been sued for sexual harassment nor racial discrimination. Furthermore, it is well documented that a corporation would ever do anything to underperform or artificially manipulate their stock prices, so clearly if a corporation owned an NFL team that went 1-15, one would know that the 1-15 was do purely to the circumstances of the team rather than the corporate owners “tanking” the team.

  27. Umm, many of these teams ARE owned by corporations: S-Corporations. Off the top of my head I know that the Giants are one. Almost certainly many more are as well.

  28. The Yankees were owned by CBS during their dreadful 1960s and early 1970s seasons. How’d that work out?

  29. Amazon and Jeff Bezos are being sued for telling employees they could leave their jobs before being killed by a tornado. No, corporations aren’t the answer.

  30. In addition, corporate ownership would not solve any of these issues. Look at baseball as a clear example. Plenty of corporate owners, there still tanking and there is still “under representation” if you compare the front office, management, and players compared to the demographics of the US.

  31. atfirstglance says:
    February 3, 2022 at 11:44 am
    I actually really like this idea. I’d go in if there were dividends. It’ll never happen but very progressive thinking.

    That is they type of thinking that has this country is the current mess we are in!!!

  32. ummm…they are the owners….they own it…..they can do what they want with thri business……
    if someone wants a league with corporate ownership they can create that league and compete…but something tell me profit will be more of a concern than winning and competing

  33. Look no further than the NHL. The Flyers are owned by comcast and run by a business guy who knows nothing about hockey. The Flyers are setting records with how bad they have been and the suits solution is to make and promote and app featuring their mascot Gritty. Marketing!

    Let’s not pretend that corps care about anything other than generating money and win or lose, franchises generate money so why would they care about winning?

  34. A billionaire is nothing but a name. Corporate groups are already running the game and that’s the reason the numbers are down

  35. With that being said, how many franchises have never had an African American head coach? How many franchises have never had an African American franchise QB? The Giants have not had either in my lifetime. To me, that’s a problem.

    I thought your question was interesting so I researched it. Here is what I found out:

    13 teams have never had an African American Head Coach – Bills, Patriots, Oilers, Jaguars, Ravens, Cowboys, Washington, Giants, Saints, Falcons, Panthers, Rams & Seahawks. Washington and the Panthers have had Ron Rivera as a coach which would at least give them a minority head coach. 59% of the teams have hired an African American coach at some point in their history. The Bills have had 2 African American coaches take over as the interim head coach but I figured people wouldn’t want that to count.

    7 teams have never had an African American Franchise QB – Patriots, Colts, Browns, Chargers, Broncos, Giants and Packers. The Giants are the only team that has never had an African American QB start the majority of a season. So 78% of the teams have had a African American Franchise QB. 97% of the teams have had an African American start at QB for the majority of a season. 100% of the teams have Drafted, started or rostered an African American QB at some point in their history.

    I guess the argument that teams have a problem hiring African American coaches has more evidence than having a problem with African American QB’s.

  36. I don’t understand why so many commenters are assuming that corporate ownership means the team would be one piece of a mega corporation’s holdings, or would still be controlled by some oligarch. That’s not at all what the post proposes. The idea is a freestanding, publicly-traded corporation. It’s not at all hard to devise a corporation like that, and to set it up in such a way that it can’t later become part of a mega corporation. It can also be set up so that there is no controlling shareholder. There are many rules that can be put into place from inception as desirable for a football operation. I know it’s cool to be cynical and dismissive, but nothing ever changes if ideas aren’t proposed and discussed. And I’m no starry-eyed kid. I worked for decades with Fortune 500 corporations, their execs, and other 1-percenters.

  37. Oh sure, corporate ownership and privatization is the answer to everything.
    Just don’t complain when all of the inevitable corruption comes along for the ride.

  38. Start with the corporate ownership , then move on to government ownership. That way it will belong to all people. Then buy up the other corporations and merger all of them together. Then it will belong to all of us. And then put one person in charge of it all. So we the people won’t have to worry.

  39. wiley16350 says: “I thought your question was interesting so I researched it. Here is what I found out:”

    Saints had Tom Fears
    Seattle had Tom Flores
    Ravens had GM Ozzie Newsome for 22 years
    Bills had Doug Whaley as GM
    Giants had Jerry Reese as GM
    Falcons just hired Terry Fontenot as GM

    Pretty much EVERY team has hired a minority in a position of power.

  40. Saints had Tom Fears
    Seattle had Tom Flores
    Ravens had GM Ozzie Newsome for 22 years
    Bills had Doug Whaley as GM
    Giants had Jerry Reese as GM
    Falcons just hired Terry Fontenot as GM

    Pretty much EVERY team has hired a minority in a position of power.
    For the coaches, I was really only looking for African American, just mention Rivera because I knew of him without research. So we could update my numbers to be:
    59% of teams have hired an African American Head Coach
    72% of the teams have hired a Minority Head Coach.

    I didn’t look into General Managers but I can see how adding those do add evidence to the teams not being as racist as people make them out to be.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.