By William A. Foster, IV
“If we command our wealth, we shall be rich and free; if our wealth commands us, we are poor indeed.” – Edmund Burke
Roger Goodell and the NFL seem pretty intent on putting a team back in Los Angeles (if not two). Now for the life of me I have no idea why they insist on a city where they’ve failed in just my lifetime more times than I’m even going to try and remember for the sake of my sanity. Of course they’ve even tossed around the horrible idea of putting a team in London as well. All of the ideas to some degree make my head hurt. The NFL is not a global sport. It’s a U.S. one. Learning and accepting one’s limitations are a great key to long-term success in life and business. The only two global team sports with a ball in my opinion for a myriad of reasons are basketball and futbol. The latter which has yet to take hold here in the U.S. but was one of only three sports to see a rise in youth sports participation, the other two being football which is no surprise and hockey – go figure, over the past decade with youth participation being a strong trend indicator of changing attitudes and demographics. To note soccer has more youth participants than hockey and football combined, with soccer having 13.6 million versus 12 million for football and hockey. So in the long-term it appears soccer is taking hold and in the short-term football is still king as noted by the almost 20% rise in youth participation in football versus only a 5.3% in soccer. Just for good measure to check the financial health of the NFL it should also be noted that the two team expansion will net each of the current 32 owners a check of about $67 million each.
This all leads me to the point of my article. If the NFL is going to expand with two new teams it is more than time for it to have its first African American majority owner and maybe its first two. There is some large irony that 65 years after Branch Rickey killed the Negro Leagues, with our help I might add, by bringing Jackie Robinson over to the Dodgers and essentially watching European American owners drain Negro League owners, the majority of whom were African Americans, of the better talent between the two leagues and yet no ownership was extended or merger was ever suggested that we have but one majority owner between the ninety-two major sports teams in the United States. It was in 2005 the last time the NFL almost had its first African American majority owner when Arizona businessman Reggie Fowler was going to attempt to buy the Minnesota Viking from Red McCombs. The deal would fall through though because as Red McCombs himself is quoted as saying “he had plenty of net worth, but there was not enough liquidity”. This is one of the many difficulties as African Americans build their net worth we tend to acquire hard assets which over the long-term will have strong appreciation but tend to have to leverage up at the expense of our soft assets like cash and cash equivalents in the short-term. Most of us can’t even imagine having the kind of the liquid cash in our everyday bank account that the very wealthy have but if you need to see an example just take a look at hedge fund manager David Tepper’s ATM receipt that was found where the balance in his savings account was almost $100 million. Yes, I said his savings account. You know the “rainy” day account or the emergency fund. Ironically it’s possibly not even that amount of liquidity would suffice for the NFL. In my own business experience most business franchises require a 25-30% cash position of the project. At the current estimates the new NFL teams will sale for around $1 billion, the prospective owner will need to have in the neighborhood of $300 million liquid. A look at the landscape there seems to be only one African American who would fit the criteria. Oprah.
The NFL office should pick up the phone and solicit Ms. Oprah Winfrey’s interest in owning a team. Yes, you heard me right. Actually I gave it away in the title but that’s not the point. Oprah Winfrey, the only African-American billionaire currently, has a net worth of $2.7 billion according to Forbes. Now, on the safe side assuming she has only a basic recommended 10% liquidity position in her portfolio, which in these current economic times would be rather foolish, she would have $270 million in liquidity more than giving her qualifying capability to purchase a NFL team. Let’s also face it the Oprah Effect is real as noted by CNBC. She has the Midas touch and her presence in the NFL would be no different. Another point to be noted is also the NFL fan base is dare I say now run by women – 60 million of them. There is also no denying that with shifting demographics in who is controlling the family purse strings is actually the person with well the purse and not the wallet into today’s changing landscape of who is making family purchasing decisions. Yes, the female consumer is to be reckoned with. Oprah, who even if some women don’t like, almost all respect for her story, journey, and tenacity as a businesswoman. Did I mention Oprah has her OWN network? The possibilities here are endless and I do mean endless.
It is not time for an African American owner. It is beyond time. For major sports like basketball and football whose labor pool is made up of over 70% African Americans it is shameful that the ownership pool has a mere 1 out of 62 (1.6%) owners that are African American. Do the right thing NFL and call Oprah. I’ll look for my consultant check in the mail.
Mr. Foster is the Interim Executive Director of HBCU Endowment Foundation, sits on the board of directors at the Center for HBCU Media Advocacy, & President of AK Companies, Inc. A former banker & financial analyst who earned his bachelor’s degree in Economics & Finance from Virginia State University as well his master’s degree in Community Development & Urban Planning from Prairie View A&M University. Publishing research on the agriculture economics of food waste as well as writing articles for other African American media outlets.