The NFL wants Black ownership all of a sudden, but will they get it?

by Ezekiel J. Walker
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During this month of February, we’re often reminded of oppressive systems and the people who overcame them. The National Football League is one of those systems.

At a time not long ago in America, White football coaches held the belief that Blacks couldn’t play quarterback. Why? They didn’t think we were smart enough. That was it. Nothing more, but their ignorant-ass opinions denied Brothers from playing the position. Thus, potential Black QB’s were forced into other positions considered less mentally straining, such as wide receiver or running back.

Lamar Jackson was asked to play Wide Receiver

That widely held racist belief permeated beyond coaches and throughout team decision-makers including General Managers and Owners. Pioneer QB’s like Doug Williams and Warren Moon were denied by the NFL for years solely because they were Black, only to later topple the very system holding them back.

Doug Williams would later win a Super Bowl and both have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Yet, NFL decision-makers believed they weren’t capable simply because they were Black. Since the NFL’s 1920 inception, the overwhelming majority of White General Managers and Owners have created the problem they are now looking to hurriedly solve.

Hey NFL: “It takes all of us”

With its biggest game of the year only days away, the subplot of this year’s NFL Super Bowl has been Brian Flores and the ripple effects of his earth-shattering lawsuit alleging discrimination against the league. The NFL has been scrambling ever since to appear as welcoming as its slogans.

Since the lawsuit, the NFL has hired two “minority” Head Coaches and now they’re looking for a new team owner. And for the first time ever, they want to bet on Black.

Earlier this year the Denver Broncos went up for sale, the first NFL team for sale since 2017’s Carolina Panthers. With such rare opportunities to purchase a team, the richest Black man in America is now a candidate. Surprise surprise. 

If Robert F. Smith were to buy the mile-high team, he’d be the first Black owner in the NFL’s history. Just when you think there are no more “First Black” records left, Robert Smith could be quite historic with the swipe of a card – or however rich people buy things.

According to the New York Post, Smith — a New York-based private-equity tycoon who famously spent $34 million in 2019 to pay off the student loans of the entire graduating class of Morehouse College — is also a Denver native.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been quietly tugging on Smith to buy the team to undoubtedly save his league’s reputation for diversity amid looming litigation. “Goodell is putting tremendous pressure on him to bid,” a source close to the situation said of Smith.

“the boy has got his own money!”

Nevertheless, 59-year-old Smith, who has an estimated net worth of $6.7 billion, according to Forbes, is in the middle of raising a $20 billion-plus fund for his Austin, Texas-based buyout firm, Vista Equity Partners. He doesn’t want to be saddled with hunting for a new starting quarterback, two sources said.

“Smith grew up as a Broncos fan and might want to buy a team, but not now while he is raising a fund,” one source close to the situation said.

“I think it’s 50/50 whether he bids for the team,” a well-placed banking source told The Post. “The NFL desperately wants Smith to bid. Right now, he doesn’t want to. If Smith bids, he wins.”

Though it’s unclear if Smith will or won’t buy the team, having only one Black voice in a room full of 31 other wealthy and influential owners leaves a football field length gap that will take many seasons to fill.

1 comment

BenM April 3, 2022 - 4:57 am

I read this with interest in light of new allegations against Washington Commanders owner, Dan Synder. And I wondered if the NFL should change it’s rules regarding ownership and allow the Commanders, who are in dire need of rehabilitation after years of sleaze and racism issues. Currently the NFL allows the Green Bay Packers to have a not for profit foundation as it’s owners, funded initially by the purchase of shares in the community. That foundation now, because the NFL is so profitable, funds charitable programmes and work in the community. How about a majority African American populace owning an NFL team? I get your point that the NFL does seem to be rather cynically playing a PR exercise to paper over it’s past (and current) sins. But why not use their cynicism to start righting a wrong? By the time I’m reading this it appears Robert F Smith has rules himself out but Byron Allen may be a possible owner in Denver as of me writing this.

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