Nothing gives a fan more satisfaction than seeing a son create his own story in the image of the father or likewise the daughter with the mother. Sports history is littered with family lineage passing down through the generations, providing a perfect synergy that supporters can identify with in their personal experience.
As the industry becomes a cynical corporate machine built on marketing towards a greater profit share, it’s comforting to know that the baton will be passed to the next of kin for them to take the game to the next level.
But families can have a complicated and often divisive relationship with sports. Take ownership for example. The Berlusconi and Pozzo clans entrenched themselves in European soccer circles to create a never ending cycle of wealth and prestige. At some point in time these monarchs of football stop being heroic figures tied to the their clubs and start becoming powerful organizations driven by their own agenda.
While the growing wage cap continues to separate workers and CEOs, the same can be seen between owners and supporters. You can be assured more families will invest in sports ownership because it enables the rich to stay powerful. What started as a vanity project for one investor can end up being a sweet little portfolio for the children, not a bad gig if you can get it.
If England has the Royal Family and the US has the Kennedys, then sports has their own dynasty’s to love, scorn and watch all at the same time. Our relationship with these people changes with every result and like many other households, the dynamic is never the same with every member.
We love our sports families, but some are more exceptional than others. Here is the Top 20 Most Powerful Families In Sports Today.
18 The Matthews
Touted as the NFLs first family by ESPN, the Matthews family lasts a staggering 3 generations in the sport. It all began with the iconic Clay Matthews Sr., an offensive tackle with the San Francisco 49ers whose career was stalled to go and fight for his country at the Korean War in the 1950s. Sons Bruce Matthews and Clay Matthews Jr. had glittering careers including a Hall of Fame induction for the latter and both men in their 50s remain prominent in the sport. Aside from free agent Kevin Matthews, three of the four grandsons in Casey, Jake and Clay III all currently play in the NFL, completing the hat trick of Matthews generations.
17 The Howes
The National Hockey League has known few like them. The Howe's span two generations starting with Hall of Fame inductee Gordie Howe and his late brother Vic. While Vic’s career lasted 9 years with the Rangers in the 1940s and 50s, Gordie would be known forever as “Mr. Hockey” by utilizing his ridiculous ambidextrous skills over 3 decades in the sport. Son Marty Howe had 12 years in the game but sibling Mark Howe had a staggering career that ended with a Hall of Fame induction before becoming the Director of Pro Scouting for the Red Wings. Hockey is seeping through the veins of the Howe's.
16 The Pettys
Hollywood couldn’t make this story up. Late grandfather Lee Petty is credited for pioneering the sport of NASCAR while winning a multitude of races and accolades along the way. Son Richard, known as The King in NASCAR circles, is only one of two men to win 7 titles and brother Kyle now hosts NASCAR America on NBC after a successful career in his own right. Sadly, Kyle’s son Adam died at the tender age of 19 in 2000 from a practice crash. Petty Enterprises remains one of the biggest players in the sport and the name alone carries as much currency as anything in the world of NASCAR.
15 The Nevilles
Gary Neville seemingly has two families at the moment. There is his hereditary one with brother Phil Neville, and the one with the remainder of Manchester United’s class of 1992. Both Gary and Phil bought a percentage share in Salford City Football Club as Phil moved to Spain to be the assistant coach of Valencia. The popular Sky Sports pundit had a father in Neville Neville who was a cricketer and football agent. His mother Jill remains a General Manager for lower league club Bury and his sister Tracey is now the interim coach of the England Netball Team. The two famous brothers remain iconic figures within Manchester United and their growing status might result in one of them taking over the reigns at Old Trafford one day.
14 The Ripkens
The Ripken family is synonymous with the sport of Major League Baseball. Leading figure Cal Ripken Sr. ended a stop-start playing career with the Orioles to coach and mold a culture known as “The Oriole Way” where he developed key talent including his son Cal Jr. Such was the talent of his boy, Cal Jr. would be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the first year of eligibility in 2007 after 20 brilliant careers topped off with a World Series win and 19 All Star appearances. His brother Billy Ripken aka Billy The Kid was something more of a journeyman, but still managed 11 years in the MLB as a solid second baseman. Billy works as a commentator with the MLB as Cal Jr. works as President and CEO of Ripken Baseball.
13 The Sutters
We haven’t calculate the odds of 6 members of the one household all making it in the National Hockey League, but it would be fair to assume the return would be sizeable. First generation brothers Brian, Darryl, Duane, Brent, Ron and Rich were all drafted into the NHL from the 1970s to 1980s. If this wasn’t enough, their offspring all played at the NHL except for Ron’s son Riley who was drafted to the WHL. Brian’s son Shaun, Darryl’s son Brett, Brent’s son Brandon, Duane’s son Brody and Rich’s son Lukas all made the cut. It sounds less like a family and more like a production line of children being born with a stick in their hand.
12 The Fords
The Motor City has fallen on hard times of late, but two things are held dear to Detroit – their love of manufacturing cars and their football team. By that measure the Ford family is forever etched into the city’s fabric. Henry Ford created the Ford Motor Company in 1901 which sustained the family name until grandson William Clay Ford Sr. took a controlling stake in the Lions in 1963. Since his fathers passing only last year, son William Clay Jr. took the vice chairmanship of the franchise to double his duties as executive chair of Ford.
11 The Bensons
Money doesn’t buy you happiness. Just take a look at the Benson family, sitting pretty with a estimated value over $1 billion but locked in a bitter legal battle for a controlling stake in the New Orleans NFL and NBA franchises. Patriarch and kingpin Tom Benson is the chief architect of the whole operation. Yet the affair is becoming a soap opera with estranged daughter Renee Benson fighting for a stake in after being cut out of the will. Then there is the adopted granddaughter Rita Benson LeBlanc who is the principal owner of the Saints and Pelicans. She was suspended by Tom in 2012 over a sense of entitlement, outlining how dysfunctional and greedy this collection of individuals are.
10 The Browns
Maybe this is the season the Cincinnati Bengals can end that dreaded trophy drought, it would certainly be a huge weight off the shoulders of 80-year old owner Mike Brown who could do without the stress at his age. Mike’s father Paul Brown created the Bengals in 1968 after a well-publicized fallout in the head coach role with the Cleveland Browns. The owner is widely criticized for his hands on approach that overlap the general manager and without any reward to show for his tenure that is more than understandable. Regardless, the Brown legacy is intrinsically linked to the Bengals who play out of the Paul Brown Stadium.
9 The Jordans
It must be unusual to have a father known as the best NBA player of all time, but that’s the existence for Michael Jordan’s 5 children Ysabel, Victoria, Jasmine, Jeffrey and Marcus. All 5 are still quite young and while Jeffrey and Marcus attempted the inevitable task of following in their father’s footsteps, they retired in the knowledge they can inherit not just a fortune but a sporting empire. Adding to his ownerships, commercial deals and Air Jordan sneakers, the Jordan name is arguably the richest currency in sports period.
8 The Williams
Venus might not be able to match sister Serena’s achievements on the court, but she remains a gifted entrepreneur who is quietly amassing a fortune behind the scenes. The sisters are part owners of the Miami Dolphins and have over a combined $100 million purely in tennis prize money wins alone. That doesn’t include huge sponsorship deals and fashion labels which both women are on the cutting edge of. They are two of the most powerful women in sports on their own merit, but just so happen to be related.
7 The Berlusconis
By the standards of any other nation Silvio Berlusconi would be considered a “disgraced former Prime Minister,” but this is Italy. Best known around the world for dodging tax and hosting “bunga bunga” sex orgy parties, Silvio’s main love and passion has been soccer giant AC Milan. He owned the club for 3 decades and oversaw a tremendous amount of success, particularly with the UEFA Champions League. Given all his other faults it’s no surprise the level of nepotism involved when daughter Barbara Berlusconi was appointed to the clubs board. This was made all the more complicated when she became romantically involved with striker Alex Pato. Her investment with her father in the financial holding Fininvest is worth an estimated $4.7 billion it looks as though the Berlusconi name is going nowhere in Italian sport anytime soon.
6 The Klitschkos
If blood is thicker than water than these brothers have spilt enough on the canvas to prove the theory. The duo from the Ukraine have made the unique transition from heavyweight boxing champions to politics in their country of birth. Older brother Vitali currently serves as the Mayor Kiev after finishing a remarkable boxing career where he won 45 out of 47 professional fights. But it’s the younger outspoken Wladimir who gets most of the headlines. His equally impressive record of 64 wins from 67 fights with 53 by TKO gave him the nickname “Dr. Steelhammer” as the brash brute stole a march on the entire weight division for years. Both men wield a huge amount of sway not only in Ukraine, but the world of boxing.
5 The Mannings
The Manning family is a quarterback family, pure and simple. Although the boys father Archie Manning never won a Super Bowl title, he had a glittering career playing for 3 different franchises from the 1970s to 80s. However, it’s the fruit of his loins that take all of the attention in the household when it comes to football. Older brother Peyton is arguably the greatest QB of all time, waiting to break Brett Favre’s passing yards record. A veteran now at the Broncos after 13 years at the Colts, as little brother Eli continues to be one of the league’s pace setters at the Giants looking to add to his 2 Super Bowl rings. The term “decorated” doesn’t even come close to describing this trio.
6. The Pozzos
They are the secret behind Watford FC’s success in the English Premier League this season. Owners might not be considered background players by most measurements in sports, but this family runs a cartel of different soccer clubs around Europe in order to sell, swap, buy and turn a profit on a database of various players. Father and son pairing Giampaolo and Gino operate Watford in England, Udinese in Italy and Granada in Spain with the establishment of the most envied scouting network in the game. This family keeps a low profile but don’t let that fool you because they are amassing an empire piece by piece.
4 The Andrettis
If it drives fast then the Andretti’s have pushed it to the maximum. The Italian American family is comprised of patriarch Mario, sons Michael and Jeff, and nephew John. All men were elite racecar drivers in one form or another beginning with Mario in the early 1960s and ending with John only a few of years ago. Despite the Andretti Curse getting in the way of any competitor winning the Indianapolis 500, every individual is either running, owning or heavily involved in a racing team or brand in one form or another. Bottom line if you’re in a pit lane in America there’s more chance of running into an Andretti than not.
4. The Rooneys
Sport only touches the surface of this multi-talented famous family spanning various disciplines across public life. Although actresses Rooney Mara and Kate Mara never followed in their family’s footsteps to pursue careers in Hollywood for themselves instead, the Rooney name is iconic with the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise. The late patriarch Art Rooney was the clubs first ever chairman as sons Dan and Art II continue the tradition by sitting as chairman and president respectively. While other boards and owner’s hire and fire with no clear direction, the Rooney family is famous for being that steady hand on the till. Nothing is done at the Steelers without the approval of the Rooney’s and that has forever been the case.
3 The Glazers
What does First Allied Corporation, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Manchester United have in common? The mega conglomerate Glazer family runs them all. The late Malcolm Glazer passed away last year but left an empire for his children to oversee. Sons Avram, Joel and Edward act as director, co-chair and vice president respectively of the Red Devils as their other sibling Bryan looks after the Bucs in Florida. It’s the ownership of Manchester United that is the most controversial, liquidating a lot of the clubs assets to burden the club with their debt. They might be rich and incredibly powerful, but they are far from loved.
2 The Mayweathers
Powerful doesn’t even begin to touch the surface of the Mayweather family. Floyd Sr. had a promising if short career with the gloves himself until a stint in jail made him shift focus to his sons endeavors. We all know that Floyd Jr. went on to accumulate a perfect 49 wins from 49 fights and became the wealthiest athlete on the planet in the process. With four young children of his own, who knows if the talent is genetic. For his sake he’ll hope so because his record as a role model is far removed from perfect.
1 The McMahons
Sportster readers don’t require any introduction to the royal family of the WWE. Taking our mantle as the number 1 most powerful family in sports today, Vince Sr., Stephanie, Shane, Linda and Vicky are more of an institution than anything else. Vince’s father Roderick was pivotal in the establishment of the Capitol Wrestling Corp way back in 1953 until son Vincent took the mantle. Grandson Vince Sr. is now the face of the business and operation but it spans down the family tree and beyond any limitations the sport of wrestling is pertained to. Without the McMahon’s who knows where wrestling would be today.
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