As sports fans, we all grow up wishing and hoping to be a superstar professional athlete someday. As we get older, most of us experience the harsh reality that we just don't have the skills to live out that incredible childhood dream, but we never lose that desire to be part of a professional team. After the shock and sadness of the harsh reality wears off many people shift their dream to the idea of someday becoming the owner of a sports franchise. Mark Cuban, for example, was just a regular guy growing up, he was not born to millionaire parents, but when he struck it rich in the tech world he did what we all would do, he bought a professional sports franchise.
Being the owner of a team would be incredibly fun and exciting, but let's not forget that there is also some work involved with such a lofty endeavor. To be the owner means you are responsible for the hiring and firing of team presidents, general managers, and sometimes players themselves, as well as many many other duties. We all like to imagine if we were owners we would have great relationships with our favorite athletes and be the lovable owner. That however, is not always the case for people who are lucky enough to purchase a franchise. Today we will look at the 15 worst owners in sports today. There are many ways to blunder such a great opportunity as we will soon see.
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15 Jerry Jones - Dallas Cowboys
Jerry Jones is the quintessential meddling owner. He just can't seem to let the professionals do the job he pays them to do. Jones once owned a very proud and successful organization. Jones purchased the team in 1990, and immediately cleaned house. He fired the only coach the Cowboys had ever know, Tom Landry, he also fired the General Manager and hired himself as the new President of Operations. He then hired his old teammate Jimmy Johnson to be the coach of the team. During the early years, with Johnson at the helm, the Dallas Cowboys were "America's Team" and had an amazing run, including Super Bowl championships in 1992, 1993, and 1995.
What caused the great run to end was Jerry Jones having too big of an ego for his own good. He was blessed with one of the great coaches the NFL has ever seen in Jimmy Johnson, but Jerry got jealous of Johnson getting credit for the team's success. In 1993, after a Super Bowl victory, Johnson walked away from the organization and Jones inserted Barry Switzer. Since the mid 1990s the Cowboys have been a yard sale of an organization and they have Jerry Jones to thank for that.
14 Jim Irsay - Indianapolis Colts
If you like to party, Jim Irsay may be the kind of friend you want. Irsay comes from a wealthy background and is an ex-athlete himself. He also has a criminal history related to drug and alcohol abuse. In 1997 Irsay was awarded the franchise after an ugly legal battle with his step-mother, and at 37 Irsay became the youngest person to ever own an NFL franchise. Since 1997 the Colts as a team have seen great success, thanks in large part to the drafting of Peyton Manning and under the current guidance of Andrew Luck.
Irsay, however, has not represented the team and the organization with much class. In 2014 Jim was arrested under suspicion of DUI and drug possession. It was reported that Irsay had had a long history with substance abuse. After the DUI charge it was revealed that Irsay's mistress was found dead of a drug overdose in a home Irsay controversially purchased with money belonging to the Indianapolis Colts. As for the DUI charge, it was reduced to a OWI plea, and Irsay was ultimately suspended six games and fined $500,000 by the NFL.
13 Peter Angelos - Baltimore Orioles
In 2009, a Sports Illustrated article detailing the worst owners in baseball, ranked Angelos the worst owner in baseball. I guess it depends what side of the fence you are on when it comes to ranking good vs bad. Just weeks after the article was released, Brady Anderson, a member of the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame said that Angelos should be ranked as the best owner in baseball. The reasons for Angelos' polarizing opinions traces back to his days as an attorney and as a labor-management negotiator.
Angelos is the type of owner who is not afraid to spend money on great players, so obviously players like him, owners however, not so much. In 1994 when MLB went on strike, Angelos was very outspoken about his disagreement with baseball instituting a salary cap, he also defended the players when he refused to allow replacement players suit up for his team. The other owners had threatened to fine him or even for him to sell the team if he refused to field replacements. Angelos is an odd inclusion on this list, but clearly many front office type and fellow owners would argue he should be even higher on the list.
12 Mikhail Prokhorov - Brooklyn Nets
Prokhorov, pronounced pro-ko-roff, took over the Nets franchise in 2009 when he became the first non-North American team owner in the NBA. Mikhail is the kind of owner who has a hands on approach with his team. That is becoming a common theme on this list, but in this case it might not be the worst thing if only Prokhorov had the time to give the team the attention it needs, as well as if he actually knew anything about basketball. He is a very busy man, and to be the head of an NBA organization it takes attention to detail, Prokhorov, unfortunately does not have the time to devote to that.
In 2011 he attempted to run for president in his home country of Russia. Could you imagine the president of Russia also running a professional basketball team in the United States? Yeah... me neither. The biggest blunder of Prokhorov's ownership is clearly the decimating trades he made early on in his ownership. In 2013 the Nets traded Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, a couple other bench players and four first round draft picks to the Celtics for an over the hill Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry. The Nets never made it past the 2nd round of the playoffs with Garnett and Pierce, and since both players have moved on the Nets have become one of the worst franchises in the NBA.
11 James Dolan - New York Knicks
The Mecca of basketball deserves so much better than James Dolan. Where do you begin with Dolan? He led the Knicks through the decade of the 2000s without a single playoff berth. Dolan is the guy who signed Allan Houston to a six year max contract for $100 million, when no other team was offering Houston $75 million. Dolan is the same guy who hired Isiah Thomas to run the basketball operations. Isiah, as hard as he tried, had no luck making a winner out of New York City. On top of his horrible moves guiding the team, Dolan was equally, or worse behind the scenes.
In 2007 Dolan was sued by an ex-Knick executive who claimed she was fired by Dolan because she filed a sexual harassment charge against then Knick exec. Isiah Thomas. Dolan was ordered to pay $3 million for the settlement. Also, in 2015, Dolan responded to a letter from a 73-year-old, lifelong Knicks fan, who criticized his ownership of the Knicks and questioned his leadership with a letter of his own. In his letter to the elderly man, Dolan told the fan to "root for the Nets because the Knicks don't want you" and that he was "a sad person" probably an "alcoholic maybe."
10 Ford Family - Detroit Lions
William Clay Ford bought the Detroit Lions in 1953 for $4.5 million; what a deal right?! William died in 2014, at the age of 88, leaving the Lions to his wife Martha. The Lions have been the most abysmal franchise in football history, and much of the blame for that is attributed to the Ford family. The Fords have been unwilling to spend money on key free agents throughout their tenure as owners. They have had players like Calvin Johnson and Mathew Stafford, who are great individual talents, but never surrounded by anything worth a lick their entire career.
Johnson recently announced his retirement, and it is a shame to see a Hall of Fame player retire without ever getting to experience team success. This is of course, the same old story for the Lions franchise. We all remember the greatest running back in NFL history, Barry Sanders suffer the same fate as Megatron. It is known in the NFL, if you want your career to die... go to Detroit.
9 Hank and Hal Stienbrenner - New York Yankees
In 2010 the George Steinbrenner passed away, and with him went the tradition of success that has always been synonymous with the pinstripes of the New York Yankees. His two bumbling baffoon sons have mad a mockery of what used to be an extremely proud and illustrious organization. Hank and Hal have helped lead the Yankees to arguably their worst decade in the history of the 115 year old franchise. In 2008 the Yankees lost their great manager Joe Torre, and the sons decided to replace him with first time coach Joe Gerardi. It has been a trying time for the Yanks since George passed.
Hank and Hal were left with a team ready to rebuild, and the two inexperienced owners had no plan. The writing was on the wall that Torre was ready to move on in his career, and the best the Yankees could do was to hire a first time manager.
The next challenge they faced was the retirement of Yankee legends Derek Jeter, and Mariano Rivera, again the children had no plan. Ultimately they decided to do what they always do, throw money at it. That didn't work either, and now the Yankees are stuck with large contracts for under-performing players, like Alex Rodriguez.
8 Michael Jordan - Charlotte Hornets
Michael Jordan is probably the greatest basketball player to ever play the game. However, being a great player does not translate to being a great owner. There is no denying Jordan's competitive fire and will to win, but as an owner you do not get to participate in the actual game. The upper-management and front office game are much different than that of the game played on the court. Jordan has been majority owner of the Charlotte franchise since 2010, but had been a minority owner since 2006. In '06 he immediately took over responsibility of all basketball operations.
The mistakes MJ has made during his time as owner and primary decision maker have been well chronicled. In his first signature move as president of basketball, Jordan drafted Adam Morrison with the 3rd overall pick in the draft. Morrison has since gone down as one of the worst flops in NBA history. It doesn't end there for MJ either, Jordan has traded away some of his franchises best players and received scrubs in return, including the trades of Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson just after the franchise made the playoffs for the first time back in 2009.
7 Dan Gilbert - Cleveland Cavaliers
Dan Gilbert is the luckiest owner in the history of sports. In 2010 LeBron James made a decision to leave his home state of Ohio in search of championships. After the move by James, Dan Gilbert wrote a letter to his team's fans. In the letter he said some of the most immature and juvenile things I have ever heard a man of such prestige say. In all caps he wrote, "I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER 'KING' WINS ONE." He also said, "The self-declared former "King" will be taking the "curse" with him down south. And until he does "right" by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma."
Well lucky for Gilbert Lebron James did do right by his city and his fans when he came home after four seasons in Miami, and led the Cavaliers to the NBA championship. While LeBron was in Miami, the time when Gilbert pledged to bring Cleveland a title, the Cavaliers were the worst franchise in the league, acquiring two number 1 overall picks in that time. Since LeBron has been back in Ohio, Gilbert has done the smartest thing possible, he has kept his mouth shut and his wallet open. Gilbert has spent money to bring players and coaches to Cleveland to facilitate the will of LeBron James. Looks like he finally got something right.
6 Jimmy Haslam - Cleveland Browns
Sorry Cleveland, but that is back to back owners on our list. There is a reason why, before LeBron and the Cavs championship this season, you were the saddest sports city in America. In 2012, billionaire businessman Jimmy Haslam bought the woeful Cleveland Browns for a whopping $1 billion. Since purchasing the team, Haslam has seen a revolving door at the coaching position. In five seasons the Browns have had four different coaches. As the cycle of coaches has ran through Cleveland, they have each performed at an abysmal level, going a combined 23-57 as a franchise.
In 2014 the Browns had the 22nd overall pick in the draft and there was a player named Johnny Manziel available. The Browns front office was very reluctant to select the troubled, but talented kid out of Texas A&M. The Browns ultimately made a huge mistake, and drafted Johnny Football. The initial reports were that the Browns loved Manziel and it was a decision made by the GM and coaching staff. Later reports surfaced that said it was in fact Haslam who pulled the trigger on drafting Manziel, and thus far, that mistake has been the ultimate downfall of the Browns under Jimmy Haslam.
5 Jim Buss - Los Angeles Lakers
The son of one of the greatest owners in sports history should have some knowledge of the job. Jim Buss, however, is a rare breed of businessman. In 2013, Dr. Jerry Buss was laid to rest, and the Los Angeles Lakers franchise was inherited by his children Jeannie and Jerry Buss. Since the departure of Jerry, Jim and Jeannie have been battling for control of the iconic franchise, with Jim getting his way the majority of the time, to the detriment of the Lakers. Jim has vowed to step aside and let Jeannie hire some experienced professionals if he is unable to guide the Lakers to the promise land by the end of the 2016-17 season. During his short, but destructive time with the Lakers, Jim Buss has let Dwight Howard walk out of Hollywood without recouping any compensation. He has also watched Kobe Bryant take the team on a season long victory lap at the expense of developing his young core. In fact, the 2015-16 season was the worst season in LA Lakers history, it is only a matter of time before Jimmy is forced to step aside.
4 Jeffrey Loria - Miami Marlins
The meddling owner of the now Miami Marlins slots in at number 4. Loria has long been viewed as the type of owner players and coaches hate working for. He seemingly always finds himself in the middle of controversy. In 2013, Loria reportedly had Ricky Nolasco and Jose Fernandez switch the games of a doubleheader in which they were scheduled to pitch, violating clubhouse protocol. Lori is the same owner who, after winning a World Series in 2003, performed a complete overhaul of his roster. Knowing the money was coming, Loria did everything he could do to increase his bottomline, including gutting his World Series roster. Also, in the late 2000's Loria wanted a new ballpark for his Marlins to play in. So, rather than reach into his extremely deep pockets, he held the city hostage. He refused to pay for the new ballpark and said if the city would not finance a new stadium for his team, he would relocate his franchise. Ultimately the city kicked in a large part of the funds needed for the stadium and Loria got his way.
3 Clay Bennett - Oklahoma City Thunder
The deceitful and shameful acts of Clay Bennett and the NBA during the relocation process in 2006 give credence to all the NBA bashers. Clay Bennett bought the Seattle SuperSonics from Starbucks mogul Howard Schultz in 2006 under a condition that Clay would give a good faith effort to keep the team in Seattle if possible. Bennett and the NBA gave no such effort. This would be proven factual when Bennett had a leak in his emails, and emails from 2006 showed Bennett working with OKC officials to relocate the team.
Bennett was sued by Schultz for breach of contract, but the city council in Seattle did not put up much of a fight, and Bennett ultimately paid the city a small sum of money to break the contract. Many folks in Seattle believe the Thunder are cursed and will never win an NBA title until a team returns to the Emerald City. Seattle fans must surely be happy about the decision made by ex-Thunder star Kevin Durant.
2 Charles Wang - New York Islanders
Charles Wang is an outside the box kind of thinker and sometime that works to his advantage, other times it make his look a bit silly. He was once a proposed the idea of inserting a sumo wrestler in as the team goalie. His crazy ideas are not worthy of number two on our list but they are funny nonetheless. There are other reasons why Wang is a much maligned owner.
Wang also has a tendency to sign players to outrageously long and overpriced contracts. He was reportedly talked out of signing Michael Peca to a 10 year deal in the late 2000s. This was already with Rick DiPietro on a 15-year contract that was signed in 2006 and bought out a couple of years ago. Wang also seems to not want the job of owner. In 2009 he said, "If I had the chance I wouldn't do it again," referring to buying the team in the first place.
1 Dan Snyder - Washington Redskins
The fans have spoken and they are not happy with Dan Snyder. In 1999 Snyder made a $500 million purchase, and since then the team has gone 117-155. That is not a good start for Snyder. In 16 seasons, Snyder has seen his team coached by eight different men, another bad sign. Snyder has claimed that he has great fan support. In 2008 he even claimed he had over 200,000 people on his season ticket waiting list.
What's odd about 2008, is that Snyder sued many of his season ticket holders, because they were unable to pay due to the recession. In 2009 Snyder banned all signs from FedEx Field; that ban lasted less than one season. Between the ineptitude on the field to the dysfunction in the front office, it is a wonder how they team has any fans at all, but these are not the only issues facing the football team in Washington.
As we all have heard by now, there is great debate over the name of the team. Snyder has been bold and at times aggressive in his defense of the racist team name. Snyder has even gone as far as to invite fans to root for a new team if they have a problem with his franchise's name. It seems like it won't be long before Snyder completely ruins a once proud organization.
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