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NFL Black Owners: A Close Look at the League’s Ownership

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Ownership of sports teams is expensive, and only the rich can afford such luxuries. This explains why billionaires are involved in the buying and selling of teams. This also explains why most of them are white and lack black owners. Most players in the National Football League (NFL) are black, but the ownership of teams doesn’t represent these figures. Why aren’t there a majority of NFL black owners?

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Minority Ownership

In 2023, the NFL has seven out of 32 minority owners in the league. The Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, were the first black owners of an NFL team when they bought an equity stake in the Miami Dolphins. Warrick Dunn followed suit and sunk $9 million into the Atlanta Falcons. 

In 2022, Mellany Hobson joined the list of black minority owners, as did Condoleezza Rice and Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton. Former basketball player Magic Johnson is the latest black person to buy a minority stake in the Denver Broncos.    

After the purchase was complete, Magic Johnson emotionally explained the significance of black owners in the league.

“It’s important for me to break these barriers. I want to excel, for myself and all African Americans so that they can see themselves taking on these roles. Also, I want people to know that we can do these jobs,” Johnson said, as written in Yahoo Sports.

While this signals progress, there is still work to do to have NFL black owners as the major owners of the teams. 

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Majority Ownership  

The NFL is still waiting for its first black majority owner. Even after conversations about racism and the pledges made by sports organizations to support blacks and people of color, some things remain the same. What’s delaying this from happening?

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NFL Financing Rule

Forbes reports that there are only 15 black billionaires in the world. These include rapper Jay-Z, pop star Rihanna, Tiger Woods and LeBron James. However, their net worth isn’t enough to buy out a majority stake in an NFL team. 

For example, the Denver Broncos team was sold for $4.65 billion, a figure higher than their net worth. Plus, to buy an NFL team, you have to buy 30% of the stake, which means that buying the Broncos costs $2 billion in liquid cash. This is a figure that’s beyond what most wealthy black people in the United States can meet, hence keeping them out of ownership.

The challenge of Athletes Becoming Owners

It’s not easy for former black athletes to become NFL owners. They tend to take baby steps to get there. 

For example, former basketballer Michael Jordan bought a small stake at the Wizards before he did the same at the Charlotte Hornets, where he’s currently the majority owner. 

At times, it doesn’t work out for them because white billionaires outprice potential black owners. Jeff Bezos can easily outprice any black investors competing for the same franchise he’s interested in buying.

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Getting the Winning Vote

Buying an NFL franchise isn’t as easy as depositing the money in the bank and signing off contracts. There’s more. Three-quarters of the 32 team owners (mostly white) have to approve your bid, you must meet the requirements of the seller and the NFL financial committee. 

Additionally, the NFL allows membership to be held by a single family, so an owner can pass it to a spouse or child. This makes it difficult for black owners to break into the majority ownership circle.  

With NFL black owners getting a shot at being minority owners, it’s just a matter of time before they break into the higher table and take majority ownership of an NFL franchise. 

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