Sports News Without Access, Favor, Or Discretion
Max Linsky | SportsFeat

Every Friday, SportsFeat picks a few great weekend reads for Deadspin. In honor of Frank McCourt, the lockouts, and James Dolan's never-ending flirtation with Isiah Thomas, here are five of the best stories ever written about terrible owners.

For a daily selection of top-shelf sports writing, both new stuff and classics, check out or follow @sportsfeat on Twitter.


Uncontested: The Life of Donald Sterling


Peter Keating • ESPN The Magazine • June 2009

Sterling's Clippers have lost more than any pro franchise since he bought the team 30 years ago. That's the least of his problems. Sterling is also an oft-sued real estate baron with a racist streak:

When Sterling first bought the Ardmore, he remarked on its odor to Davenport. "That's because of all the blacks in this building, they smell, they're not clean," he said, according to Davenport's testimony. "And it's because of all of the Mexicans that just sit around and smoke and drink all day." He added: "So we have to get them out of here." Shortly after, construction work caused a serious leak at the complex. When Davenport surveyed the damage, she found an elderly woman, Kandynce Jones, wading through several inches of water in Apartment 121. Jones was paralyzed on the right side and legally blind. She took medication for high blood pressure and to thin a clot in her leg. Still, she was remarkably cheerful, showing Davenport pictures of her children, even as some of her belongings floated around her.

Jones had repeatedly walked to the apartment manager's office to plead for assistance, according to sworn testimony given by her daughter Ebony Jones in the Housing Rights Center case. Kandynce Jones' refrigerator dripped, her dishwasher was broken, and her apartment was always cold. Now it had flooded. Davenport reported what she saw to Sterling, and according to her testimony, he asked: "Is she one of those black people that stink?" When Davenport told Sterling that Jones wanted to be reimbursed for the water damage and compensated for her ruined property, he replied: "I am not going to do that. Just evict the bitch."

Repairs never came. The shower stopped working, and the toilet wouldn't flush; Jones needed to use a plunger and disposed of waste tissue in bags.

Kandynce Jones departed the home she loved but that caused her so much grief when she passed away, on July 21, 2003, at age 67.


Just Live, Baby!


Bryan Curtis • Play • August 2007

Al Davis ran one of the NFL's top franchises for decades, an organization cut entirely in his image. Curtis's profile, however, finds Davis in his twilight and his team in disarray:

Since 2003, the Raiders have put together the worst record in the N.F.L. Davis has been through four head coaches in the past six seasons, most recently the hapless Art Shell, who also coached the Raiders from 1989 to 1994. Shell made it through one season the second time around, overseeing the most dismal season in Davis's years with the team. Those Raiders were 2-14 and finished dead last in the league in total yards gained and points scored, and by season's end Shell, convinced that a Raiders' executive was undermining his standing with Davis, was making cryptic references to a "fox in the chicken coop." An assistant coach offered to fight players on the sideline.

This is the Raiders' baroque period. "They're like North Korea," one rival team official told me. "They're in the community of nations, but they're kind of not." The same official added that the Raiders are the only business that has ever said no when he called and asked to leave a message. The team and its owner have long been mysterious (one of Davis's players once compared him to Greta Garbo), but the lengthy silences were taken to mean that Davis was concocting some ingenious scheme — a new offense, a surprise draft choice, even moving the whole team to Los Angeles, which he did in 1982 for 13 years and has threatened to do again.

Now the silences seem to indicate something else.


Heaven Help Marge Schott


Rick Reilly • Sports Illustrated • May 1996

Much of Reilly's famous story paints the picture of a sad, lonely widow. Then there's this bit:

Because she's set apart from the world like that, it's no wonder Schott's political and social views have not really changed since the Edsel. Over the years she has insulted homosexuals ("Only fruits wear earrings"), blacks ("Dave is my million-dollar nigger," she said of Dave Parker, a Reds outfielder from 1984 to '87) and Jews ("He's a beady-eyed Jew," she said of Cincinnati marketing director Cal Levy, according to Unleashed, the exhaustive biography of Schott written by Mike Bass in 1993). As for Adolf Hitler, she takes a compassionate view. "He was O.K. at the beginning," she says. "He rebuilt all the roads, honey. You know that, right? He just went too far."


Madoff's Curveball


Jeffrey Toobin • The New Yorker • May 2011

Fred Wilpon: owner of the the hapless Mets, alleged co-conspirator of Madoff, derider of his own players.

In the game against the Astros, Jose Reyes, leading off for the Mets, singled sharply up the middle, then stole second. "He's a racehorse," Wilpon said. When Reyes started with the Mets, in 2003, just before his twentieth birthday, he was pegged as a future star. Injuries have limited him to a more pedestrian career, though he's off to a good start this season. "He thinks he's going to get Carl Crawford money," Wilpon said, referring to the Red Sox' signing of the former Tampa Bay player to a seven-year, $142-million contract. "He's had everything wrong with him," Wilpon said of Reyes. "He won't get it."

After the catcher, Josh Thole, struck out, David Wright came to the plate. Wright, the team's marquee attraction, has started the season dreadfully at the plate. "He's pressing," Wilpon said. "A really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar."

Wright walked.

When Carlos Beltran came up, I mentioned his prodigious post-season with the Astros in 2004, when he hit eight home runs, just before he went to the Mets as a free agent. Wilpon laughed, not happily. "We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one series," he said, referring to himself. In the course of playing out his seven-year, $119-million contract with the Mets, Beltran, too, has been hobbled by injuries. "He's sixty-five to seventy per cent of what he was." Beltran singled, loading the bases with one out.

Ike Davis, the sophomore first baseman and the one pleasant surprise for the Mets so far this season, was up next. "Good hitter," Wilpon said. "Shitty team—good hitter." Davis struck out. Angel Pagan flied out to right, ending the Mets' threat. "Lousy clubs—that's what happens." Wilpon sighed. The Astros put three runs on the board in the top of the second.

"We're snakebitten, baby," Wilpon said.


The Cranky Redskins Fan's Guide to Dan Snyder


Dave McKenna • Washington City Paper • November 2010

Ever heard of this one? Whatever. No list of stories about schmuck owners is complete without McKenna's epic, encyclopedic, not-at-all-libelous takedown of Snyder. A favorite section:

Official Mattress of Six Flags: Anatomic Global. Over time, Snyder had shown his sponsorship mania by inking deals that gave Six Flags an official mayonnaise and the Redskins an official carpet installer. In June 2009, weeks after the theme park chain filed for bankruptcy, Snyder signed a deal for an official mattress. In the few months before his removal from the board, Snyder actually started selling the mattresses at his theme parks ($1,299 for a queen size).


Have a favorite piece that we missed? Leave the link in the comments or tweet it to @sportsfeat.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter