The challenges arising from the hiring of minority candidates for key positions within NFL organizations flow in many respects from the fact that so few teams are owned by minorities. One team — the Jaguars — is owned by Pakistan native Shad Khan. There are no Black controlling owners of any NFL team, and there never have been.
With the goal of changing that reality, the NFL issued a joint statement from all teams on Monday.
“The NFL member clubs support the important goal of increasing diversity among ownership,” the statement declares. “Accordingly, when evaluating a prospective ownership group of a member club pursuant to League policies, the membership will regard it as a positive and meaningful factor if the group includes diverse individuals who would have a significant equity stake in and involvement with the club, including serving as the controlling owner of the club.”
It’s generally a worthwhile objective, but it overlooks the fact that the financial barriers to qualifying as a controlling owner are very high. Under current rules, the controlling owner must be able to write a check for 30 percent of the purchase price, and no more than $1 billion of the remaining amount can be raised via debt. There has been speculation about the owners potentially relaxing those rules; at the end of the day, however, owners who are selling teams will want to generate the most money. They’ll want the best overall deal, no matter how it’s structured and to whom it’s sold.
As to the Broncos, some have wondered whether the rules would be relaxed to allow media mogul Byron Allen to emerge as the winning bidder. Because the team currently is held in trust, and because the trustees have a fiduciary obligation to maximize the financial return, only so much can be done to make it easier to make a deal with a group led by a minority owner.
Ultimately, it’s a factor that will potentially break a tie, or maybe provide the edge in a situation where the offer involving the minority owner is close to the best offer.
Even if this new approach works, teams don’t go on the market very often. The issues with minority hiring in the NFL run far deeper than the absence of Black controlling owners. Having one or two or three won’t change much, in the grand scheme of things. All owners need to look at their own practices and procedures, and they need to conduct an honest assessment of where things need to change.