When Maya Angelou said, “When people show you who they are, believe them,” she was foreshadowing the actions of the NFL.
Despite all the headlines and backlash that the league receives, and the fact that they’re dealing with a class-action lawsuit from three Black men that are alleging racist hiring practices when it comes to Black coaches, everything is lining up for the NFL to soon announce that the Denver Broncos are about to be sold to another wealthy white man in a league in which a large majority of the workforce on the field is Black. But yet, the league has never allowed a Black person to be an owner.
According to multiple reports, Rob Walton — the son of Walmart founder Sam Walton, and estimated to be worth around $59.2 billion — is all set to drop $4.5 billion on the Denver Broncos. The Arkansas resident gives the NFL yet another absurdly old rich white dude from a red state. Funny how that always works out.
When the transaction goes through, according to Bloomberg, it will be “the highest amount ever paid for a US professional sports team. It would surpass the $3.3 billion sale of the Brooklyn Nets to Alibaba Group Holding Inc. co-founder Joe Tsai in 2019 and David Tepper’s purchase of the Carolina Panthers for $2.3 billion in 2018.” When Tepper bought the Panthers in cash in 2018, it changed the game for how future ownership transactions were destined to go, as it was a clear signal that the person with the deepest pockets was going to win. And according to Forbes’ most recent list of the world’s richest sports owners, it means that Walton will be third overall and first in the NFL.
A team being sold to the highest bidder with the biggest checkbook in a capitalistic society, isn’t the problem here. The issue is that this is a league that tried to act like it was going to give a Black person a chance at ownership when that was never the case. And people actually fell for it.
Byron Allen had his name trotted out like he was a legit contender when he never had a chance with an estimated net worth of less than half a billion. And then there were people like Kanye West and Antonio Brown, who thought they could partner up and buy a team, when all they did was make even bigger fools of themselves. Their attempt was as baseless as when Diddy, Steph Curry, and Michael Rubin tried to buy the Panthers in 2018, but that quickly fell apart as soon as the asking price rose to $2.5 billion.
Oh, and for all the people that believed that Jay-Z was “playing chess not checkers” when he signed on to work with the NFL, as if it would put him on the fast track to ownership, his estimated worth of $1.3 billion is pocket change to most of the other bidders — and he still doesn’t have a team to his name. I guess getting Snoop Dogg to perform at the Super Bowl and selling out Colin Kaepernick was worth it to him.
However, if any Black bidder had a real chance it was Robert F. Smith. His net worth is estimated at $6.7 billion, which is higher than that of Colts’ owner Jim Irsay and Eagles’ owner Jeff Lurie. But, letting in a wealthy Black man who fit the bill, but who also paid off all the student debt of Morehouse College’s 2019 graduating class — the only all-male HBCU on Earth — wasn’t something that the good ole boys club was probably cool with.
“Why does the NFL and its owners have such a difficult time, at the highest levels, hiring Black people into decision-making positions?”
That’s what Jim Trotter asked Roger Goodell at the Commissioner’s Super Bowl press conference in February. The veteran journalist also discussed the league’s lack of Black coaches throughout the NFL’s 100-plus year history, and how the NFL still hasn’t had a Black majority owner, has only had two Black club presidents, and that of the top 11 executives in the league office, only two of them are people of color.
These are just a few of the reasons why the league is facing a class-action lawsuit alleging racism. Because when you look around at how the NFL is constructed, and who gets to be selected for ownership, the evidence is glaring.
This isn’t about whether or not how the NFL chooses who gets to be an owner is legal or illegal, or if it even breaks any antitrust laws. This is about the NFL being who they’ve also shown us they are, and people still pretending that they aren’t “that bad.” Major League Soccer even has a better Rooney Rule than the NFL. And on Tuesday, the league announced that it was hosting its first official events in Africa later this month, which will include a talent identification camp. It took until 2022, for a league that’s over 100 years old and includes over 100 players born in Africa and/or first-generation Africans, to go to the second-largest continent on Earth to see if there was “talent” there.
Think about that one for a while.
And yet, despite all that, this is a league that produced 75 of the 100 most-watched television broadcasts in 2021. The heir to Walmart is about to become the newest owner in the NFL. And when you think about that and all it entails, it becomes pretty clear why the league has never had a Black owner. The game is rigged in more ways than one.