The owners of sports franchises are the easiest targets when the product on the field is not up to par for the fanbase. These are the guys who sign the checks to pay the coaches and players that make up the organization at large. Fair or not, these wealthy, franchise owners are held responsible for the failures of their employees. Unfortunately, these owners are often viewed as disconnected CEOs who never feel the impact of their business decisions, i.e. free agent signings, draft picks, and coaching hires.
Despite the stereotype of owners of professional sports franchises being aloof, heartless bean counters, there are plenty of invested owners who are all in when it comes to their teams. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is an in your face, ever present to a fault owner. Love him or hate him, you have to admire his commitment and passion for his team. Most fans would ask for some sort of presence from their owners. However, there are some owners that fans wish would go away for good and put up the ‘For Sale’ sign on their franchise.
These ten owners are hated for their incompetence at running a professional franchise. Varying degrees of ineptitude from draft busts, to greed, to staunch, self-serving, showmanship exist on this list. These owners made the cut because they are the worst in the sports world right now for all of these qualities and much more.
10. David Glass – Kansas City Royals
For an owner that is radiating in the afterglow of an improbable run to an American League pennant, Glass is still one of the most miserly owners in baseball. The Royals’ recent success can be attributed to cultivating homegrown talent and soldiering on with their own prospects. However, that same crop of talent has been the result of many years of dwelling at the bottom of the standings. The Royals found themselves in a string of futility thanks to Glass’s resistance to spending. The tightwad has overseen teams ranking 28th, 29th, and 30th in payroll in 2000, 2005, and 2011 respectively. Now, in spite of the opportunity to capitalize on success, Glass let designated hitter and fan favorite Billy Butler walk via free agency. Glass deserves none of the credit and all of the blame.
9. The Ricketts – Chicago Cubs
The epitome of heartlessness and money grubbing is what the Ricketts exemplified in their public battle with the owners of the famous rooftop bleachers across the way from Wrigley Field. In their attempts to put up billboards that would obscure the view of the field from the buildings, the Ricketts wanted to vanquish the last vestige of Chicago’s lovable ball club image. Besides this coldhearted tactic, the Ricketts have been known to go out of their way to avoid paying for anything out of their own deep pockets, begging for $150 million in taxpayers’ money while requesting tax breaks as well. While the Cubs have been losing, the Ricketts have been lining their pockets at the fans’ expense.
8. Fred Wilpon – New York Mets
The Wilpon family was swindled by Bernie Madoff, however, Mets fans may feel they have been cheated by Fred Wilpon in recent years. Take Citi Field, for example. The Mets’ home park is where home runs go to die a long flyball’s death. Whoever okayed the final blueprints for its dimensions should have double checked their math. As a result, the giant red apple in center field has not received much of a workout in celebration of a Metropolitan home run since the park opened in 2009. Unless the Mets build a prolific pitching staff and hope to win games two to one on a regular basis at home, Wilpon deserves the blame for the mess that the Mets are in.
7. Clayton Bennett and Aubrey McClendon – Oklahoma City Thunder
This duo should be higher on the list for their acquisition of the former Seattle SuperSonics and moving the team to Oklahoma City. In sports-related business decisions, all that was missing were moving trucks operating in the cover of darkness in clandestine fashion to make the move any more deplorable. The fact that it affects Seattle, a city recognized for the scourge of coffee shops that is Starbucks, makes the moves less seismic than if it were anywhere east of the Mississippi. Nevertheless, Bennett and McClendon have rightfully earned their place on this list for demanding $500 million from Seattle for a new arena and bolting out of town when denied by the city.
6. James Dolan – New York Knicks
The amnesty rule in the NBA is a product of a folly by New York Knicks owner James Dolan. Today, teams can release one player without worry about the player’s contract counting against the luxury tax. Dolan was stuck with a six-year, $100 million contract with Allan Houston, who got the last laugh by profiting from the Knicks’ ineptitude while he sat out injured instead of riding off into the sunset of retirement.
To pile more on top of Dolan’s reign of terror, the colossal mismanagement of the firing of Larry Brown and replacing him with general manager Isiah Thomas ranks as an epic failure. Thomas was saddled with coaching and retaining his GM duties at the same time. The equivalent of tap dancing while juggling knives, Thomas and the Knicks were in a no win situation.
5. Dan Gilbert – Cleveland Cavaliers
Gilbert is the jilted lover of NBA owners. After being gifted LeBron James as the number one pick, Gilbert never brought in significant players to surround James and help the superstar become more than a one man show. After James made his decision to leave for Miami, Gilbert wrote the infamous Comic Sans-font letter that was thought to have burned the relationship between James and his hometown as much as the jerseys that smouldered on decision night. Now, James has returned and all is well in the kingdom of Cleveland. However, Gilbert had the chance to take the high road and dug a deeper hole in Cleveland’s torturous history. Remember, it took three number one overall picks for James to consider returning to Cleveland, meaning Gilbert was willing to tank, while James won two titles down in South Beach. Gilbert should consider himself fortunate that James is the bigger man by far.
4. Woody Johnson – New York Jets
The great grandson of the co-founder of Johnson and Johnson is not exactly losing sleep over the abomination that is the New York Jets. However, Woody Johnson should have his feet put to the fire over the idiocy of hiring general manager John Idzik and coach Rex Ryan. Idzik is responsible for drafting interception machine Geno Smith, and Ryan is a perpetual malcontent that does nothing but make the Jets a bigger laughingstock than their on-field performance suggests. Johnson should take control of this sinking ship instead of allowing the drama to continue. If the past is any indication, Johnson will fire both of them and assemble another braintrust without enough sense between them to dig the Jets out of mediocrity. Maybe Johnson should stick to relishing in the good fortune of being an heir to a billion dollar company.
3. Jeffery Loria – Miami Marlins
Famous for winning a World Series and promptly dismantling the team within weeks of the last piece of confetti hitting the streets, Jeffrey Loria is one of the biggest swindlers in sports ownership. Loria tried to pull the wool over the eyes of fans in 2012 when he was all in with big free agent signings and trades that signaled a commitment to winning now. After one season together in a brand new ballpark, paid for by Miami taxpayers for $2.4 billion through the year 2048, Loria blew up the team. Loria sent Jose Reyes and Mark Buerhle, among others, packing to Toronto, one year into their contracts. Giancarlo Stanton should look at this as a cautionary tale and consider the opt-out clause an opportunity to pull the rip chord in the event of another Loria fire sale.
2. Jerry Jones – Dallas Cowboys
Besides running “America’s Team” (there is still no idea who sanctioned that particular poll question or how much of America was surveyed), Jerry Jones is everything that is wrong with the Dallas Cowboys. Maintaining the façade of excellence despite three straight years of 8-8 records, one playoff win in eighteen years, and a .500 record in that same time frame are all reason enough as to why Jones is exceedingly incompetent. The owner/GM fired Jimmy Johnson for not towing the line, otherwise interpreted as “there are no bigger stars in Big D than J.J.”
For a contemporary example, Jones acted as team doctor, declaring Tony Romo healthy to return in a Monday Night contest against Washington even though Romo’s back had more cracks than the Liberty Bell. No other owner is as omnipresent as Jones. The dark lords of Bristol via their temple of ESPN have worked their shadowy magic to keep it that way as if it were foretold in ancient prophecy that the oil man from Texas is the truth. As so it is written, as so it shall pass that the Cowboys stay in relative incompetency.
1. Daniel Snyder – Washington Redskins
Throw out all of the ridiculous signings of over-the-hill free agents that Snyder has signed in his tenure. Many have paid for past successes and have been burned, making Snyder no different than any owner or GM in history.
The defiance over their controversial name is what sets Snyder apart as the worst owner in sports. The continuous, staunch defense of their nickname is sadly as comical as it is perplexing. Words like “honor” and “heritage,” that Snyder has chosen to use as justification for the rightful use of their nickname, ring hollow. In turn, Snyder has also countered with the story of the name itself honoring the supposed Native American heritage of coach Lone Star Dietz, who turned out to be a draft dodger from World War I and claimed to be Native American to avoid service.
Whatever story Snyder decides to spin, the narrative remains the same: hide behind false legacies and paper thin rhetoric. Eventually, this controversy will reach a conclusion, but Snyder will remain defiant to the bitter end, cementing his worst owner status.