The NFL has never had a Black owner. With franchise values skyrocketing, and with NFL rules requiring the controlling owner to hold 30 percent of the equity and to have less than $1 billion in debt associated with the team, it’s difficult to find many people (regardless of race) with the money to purchase majority interest in a team.
Via Ben Fischer of Sports Business Journal, the league could waive that rule for the purposes of facilitating Black ownership of the Broncos. It would be, as Fischer explains it, a one-time exception that would allow someone like Byron Allen, who apparently lacks the financial standing to secure the winning bid in the traditional way, to purchase a team.
Black ownership of one team would hardly solve the league’s deeper issues in this regard. Yes, it’s necessary. As Al Sharpton explained on Friday’s Morning Joe on MSNBC, it’s one of the issues that came up during Thursday’s meeting between Commissioner Roger Goodell, a handful of owners, other team representatives, and various civil-rights leaders. Still, thinking that having one Black owner solves the chronic failure of white owners to hire sufficient numbers of Black coaches is no different from thinking that racism ended when America elected Barack Obama.
It’s a long-overdue start, with no guarantee it will lead anywhere other than to move from zero Black NFL owners to one Black NFL owner. Still, one is better than zero. And the NFL can’t get to two (or more) without first getting to one.
Meanwhile, the one-time exception eventually may need to swallow the rule. Current procedures hinge ownership solely on financial resources, not on whether the owner will be a good partner or, more importantly, a good person. With so many different ways to skin the financial cat, it may be time to get rid of the idea that whoever wants to buy the team must be able to show up with a sack full of cash in the amount of 30 percent of the purchase price. There’s a good chance that, as the bar gets higher and higher, the only people with the money to buy a team will be people that no one really wants to do business with — and no one who should be the steward of a sports organization in which so many fans are financially and emotionally invested.