Is sports franchise ownership a hobby for the rich?

March, 4, 2011
3/04/11
5:00
PM ET
By Timothy Varner, 48 Minutes of Hell
ESPN.com
Graydon Gordian just posted a round up of the Sports and Labor relations panel from this morning. I’ll leave it to you to follow the link and soak in his impressions.

One question regarding this discussion of how to grow the league and make it more profitable for owners that was only briefly discussed is whether franchises are ultimately businesses or toys for the exceptionally affluent.

Another way of asking this question is what kind of wealth should the NBA allow into its ownership group?


Something to remember about NBA owners is that, generally speaking, they’ve accumulated wealth with a core of businesses that allowed them to get so amazingly rich that they qualify for ownership of a pro sports team. How much is your fantasy league buy-in in comparison to your annual salary? It sounds absurd -- I’m not suggesting a strict comparative scale -- but that analogy is not entirely dissimilar to ownership of a sports team.

Increasingly, I think the NBA needs more owners like Mark Cuban and less like George Shinn, the former owner of the New Orleans Hornets. Owners whose wealth is not inseparably tied to the the financial health of the NBA or their respective franchise. The NBA needs owners who are willing to take on a franchise as an insanely expensive hobby.

This is not to say that every NBA owner should have the same net worth of Mark Cuban. But we should be realistic about what’s going on here. NBA teams are as much a hobby as they are a business.

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