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October 2009

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COMMENTS

Who should own sports franchises?

Written by , Posted in General

First of all let me state that the purpose of this thread is not to pontificate and hurl fireballs back and forth about Rush Limbaugh, Al Sharpton, Keith Olbermann, Glenn Beck et al. I am not going to convince people of the opposite political persuasion to my point of view and they certainly aren’t going to transform me. Rather I want to engage some of you in a colloquy about whether or not a person’s character or past statements should prohibit them from being an owner in a pro sports franchise.

In the current case the issue has been somewhat simplified because the ownership group is the one who dropped the controversial figure. My sense is that the decision was made largely because the prospective owners knew that this individual would make it awful hard to sign free agents and perhaps even high draft picks. In other words, the chemistry wasn’t right. But let us suppose that they had not made this decision – would the NFL owners have the right to vote down this ownership group on the basis of a controversial owner? This situation is a bit more murky than the situation that occurred in baseball with DiBartolo and the White Sox; Major League Baseball has a bonafide anti-trust exemption and is overseen by the US Congress.

The NFL on the other hand has an anti-trust exemption with respect to broadcasting – the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 allows the league an exemption that specifically applies to the right to negotiate multimedia contracts and does not cover the other aspects of how the league operates. This has been proven in the courts in cases such as USFL v. NFL in which the jury found that that the NFL was a “duly adjudicated illegal monopoly,” and further found that the NFL had willfully acquired and maintained monopoly status through predatory tactics. There is also speculation that the owners will challenge McNeil v. National Football League, a move that could cause the players association to challenge the league on anti-trust grounds.

My sense is that the owners of major sports leagues should be allowed to set rules as to whom they will allow and who they will not allow to become owners so long as those decisions don’t violate other laws with respect to discrimination on the basis of race, gender, creed or (increasingly) personal lifestyle preferences. With respect to the baseball instance, nothing was proven about Mr. DiBartolo to make him an “unsavory” character although most everybody knows how the DiBartolos made their money prior to the 49ers. Baseball, however has a specific anti-trust exemption and they are more or less free to use it as they choose.

And again, no soapbox speeches about Mr. Limbaugh and other political commentators, puh-leeze!  The question is about whether or not what individuals say or have said can preclude them from ownership, as well as other considerations.  And if no one else wishes to comment that is fine too.

  • cap’n obvious

    I believe the problem is that Limbaugh was a bit player in this. If he were a billionnaire and could have thrown down for the Rums on his own, I think the NFL would have had to take him seriously. Because he was only a bit player, bolstering Checketts’ credit line, both the NFL and Checketts could tell him to screw, and let him be the martyr he wanted to be all along anyway.

    What he said about McNabb is basically true, the owners do desperately want black quarterbacks to succeed. More so than black coaches or black cornerbacks, or for that matter, black officials? Not sure. For the record, I used to be a card carrying republican. Right now I believe that the 2 party system is a joke and a 3rd party would do us all some good. The NFL just dodn’t want the controversy.

    The bottom line is that the NFL has become a juggernaut because they have done a better job than other leagues in disciplining its players, and keeping a solid public image. The NBA is a weed and deadbeat dad haven. Baseball has its own well publicized drug issues….say what you want, at least the NFL punishes players who run afoul of the law and league rules, and I think joe fan has responded accordingly.

  • Seymour Butts

    Rush is a human piece of Gregg. His outspokenness(it that a word?), would make it difficult to attract players as has been stated.

    But…. look at it from the point of view of a prospective owner selling a franchise. Why should other owners in the league have any say over who you sell to? It could mean having to take less than the highest bid and eat the difference. That’s what I have a problem with. If Rush had the jack, sell it to him, but the franchise would then likely run into the ground. I know, the Rams are already in the ground, but it could get much worse.

    Notice that when Sam Zell bought the tribune, he acquired the Cubs without needing the baseball owners blessing. Someone could have bought the trib, and sold off everything but the Cubs and not needed MLB Vetting. Not a fair system they have, but most really rich guys play nice in the sandbox, which is exactly I was pulling for Mark Cuban. Or maybe Cubbiedude.

  • Terrelle Pryor 2

    I think to a certain extent that the leagues should be allowed to decide who owns teams, a nutjob like Limbough shouldn’t be allowed, he is too polarizing, but someone like Cuban, who likes abusing refs and spending money and cheering wildly for his teams shouldn’t be blackballed out. I like his yelling at refs, and so does Lou. Lou was like I’d love it, then I wouldn’t have to go out and yell at the umpire. And think about it. In the NBA, Cuban gets to abuse 3 refs 82 times a year. In MLB, he gets to abuse 4 umpires 162 times a year. That’s an extra 402 abusings a year.

    I don’t know why MLB still has an anti-trust exemption. The government really should revoke it. It doesn’t serve them any good like it does the NFL, and MLB has shown they don’t deserve it. Shady Gregg’s have gone on in MLB with ownership before. When the Red Sox were bought by John Henry, his bid wasn’t the highest bid. 2 other guys bid higher than he did, and the Massachusetts attorney general threatened to veto the transaction, before Henry added a huge donation to his bid.

    Remember when John Canning was the front-runner to buy the Cubs? There was an article on ESPN.com about shady inside deals in MLB
    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3030144

  • Doc Raker

    I think the owners have a right to choose who buys a franchise, which is just part of the larger business of the league, for any reason they choose.

    I think in this case it is sad that outright lies were made up to make Rush look like a racist. The only factual statement I heard being discussed in the media was the McNabb comment about the press wanting a black quarteback to succeed which is a statement about journalistic race bias, hardly a statement of hate. Many of the other statements attributed to Rush were false statements, and an all to willing media and public ate it up. Rush is not a racist IMO. Regardless, the owners have a right not sell to someone for any reason, regardless if the reason is true or not. In a free market society business has the right to succeed and fail.

    I think the media’s harsh and critical treatment of Obama proves Rush wrong. I mean, if the media wanted a black quarterback to succeed you would think they would want a black president to succeed but it is obvious the media plays no favorites in politics. (Insert cynical laugh here)

  • JoePepitone

    “I don’t know why MLB still has an anti-trust exemption.”

    Back in the 1920’s, the Supreme Court ruled that the Sherman Anti-Trust Act did not apply to Major League Baseball because it was a “sport”, not a “business”. Because this was how the Court interpreted the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, Congress has to act to remove the MLB’s exemption or else the Supreme Court has to say, “sorry, we changed our mind — we were wrong” — something the Court is unlikely to do after almost 90 years of precedent, especially when Congress can change the situation whenever they want to.

    Personally, I think that Congress is unlikely to change the exemption because it is a threat they can always use to force the MLB to make changes they want done without ever having to go through the effort (and suffer the accountability) of actually passing a law. The minute they remove the exemption, they lose that stick. It’s more effective as a threat than as an action.

    Regarding Mr. Limbaugh, he thrives on attracting controversy, so he says things that he knows will get an inordinate rise out of people. It’s provided him with a very good living and probably gives him some kind of psychological payoff, so he is not likely to change that anytime soon. The trade-off for that kind of behavior is that some people won’t want you to join their clubs. You lives your life and you makes your choices. He can always choose to act differently if he wishes.

    Limbaugh’s “persecution of conservatives” trope is bull hockey (observing Rule I of this website). William F. Buckley and Judge Richard Posner were/are respected, not persecuted.

  • Terrelle Pryor 2

    I believe the term is bull honky, not bull hockey

  • Notice that when Sam Zell bought the tribune, he acquired the Cubs without needing the baseball owners blessing

    Wrong. The MLB owners had to approve Zell, just as the MLB owners had to approve the Ricketts group..

  • Terrelle Pryor 2

    I thought Zell was given a special exemption because he had no intentions of being the permanent owner and he had (still has actually) stake in the White Sox

  • Pepitone

    Limbaugh’s “persecution of conservatives” trope is bull hockey (observing Rule I of this website). William F. Buckley and Judge Richard Posner were/are respected, not persecuted.

    If you don’t think there is political bias in the media then you aren’t paying attention.

    I am going to send Ralph after Pepitone for a rematch. After a bottle of cheap vodka Pepitone should be easily KO’d which he deserves.

    The Sherm Anti Trust act? Any relation?

  • Seymour Butts

    Wrong.

    Back at you.

    I am fairly sure Zell did not go thru MLB vetting for the reasons I out lined above. I was not certain, so I googled it and come up only with a 2008 reference to zell channeling the greed is good guy by not having to go thru MLB’s process. Not proof, but I couldn’t find any thing that said otherwise in the first 5 pages of my google search. I have too much of a life to search further, so let me know if you can prove it otherwise. In the mean time, I will just believe I’m right.

  • Doc Raker

    Maybe Zell was approved but probably didn’t go through an in depth vetting process since he wasn’t going to be a long term owner. Kinda like the Obama vetting process of Van Jones.

  • I am fairly sure Zell did not go thru MLB vetting for the reasons I out lined above.

    Actually… you are somewhat right, and I am wrong.

    Zell didn’t go through the normal vetting process, but not necessarily because of the reasons that you gave (by a larger entity that includes the Cubs). I believe the stated reason was what “Terrelle Pryor 2” gave above, i.e. that Zell planned on immediately flipping the Cubs to someone else.

    With that said, by getting an explicit exception from MLB, he got their approval, just without going through the normal process.

  • JoePepitone

    Doc,

    “If you don’t think there is political bias in the media then you aren’t paying attention.”

    Actually, I do believe there is political bias in the media. I just think that Limbaugh’s ‘persecution’ has nothing to do with it. Limbaugh is an attention junkie who will keep saying things to get a rise out of people. He thrives on polarizing people. It has little to do with conservative ideology — it’s more about being a infamous, attention-seeking douchebag.

    If everybody ignored him, he’d shrivel up and go away.

  • Joe
    Limbaugh is a loud attention seeking voice to be sure. There is a double standard on how conservatives and liberals are treated in the media. You can’t seperate that bias from Limbaughs treatment in the main stream media. He was persecuted in the media as other conservatives have been.

    The choice of the NFL owners to include him into NFL ownership is completely their choice, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that the NFL owners choice isn’t influenced by a conservative hating media.

  • I saw very little mainstream media saying that Limbaugh shouldn’t be able to own an NFL franchise.

    Limbaugh has said many, many very offensive things, some of which have to do with race. He is also, by choice, a very polarizing and divisive figure. Neither of those things have anything to do with a so-called “conservative hating media.”