Much has been made of the transcendent douchebaggery of LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling, née Tokowitz, a man whose bigoted views were apparently captured on a recording that is now making the rounds. I've heard talk of Sterling's less-than-progressive beliefs in the past, so none of this really came as a surprise to me. But given the speed of the news cycle these days, bad news travels fast and skeletons can be pulled out of closets in a hurry.
Sterling's not the first owner to be accused of being either a bigot or an idiot, nor would be the first to be forced into selling his team as a result of his views. Heck, he's probably not even the first to change his name in order to avoid prejudice, only to display a great deal of his own. But while he'll still be a billionaire when this whole thing blows over, I know of at least one other owner who lost more than just the ownership of his team.
It was at a family gathering this past weekend that I read a bit about former Cubs owner, Mr. Charles Weeghman. You see, my in-laws live in Richmond, IN, which was also Weeghman's hometown, as well as his current resting place, so their local paper wrote up a little piece on the 100th birthday celebration.
The usual story goes that the Wrigleys bought the team from Weeghman and the intimation is that he had fallen on some hard financial times. But I don't recall the tales mentioning why he fell on those hard times. After all, this was a man who owned several different cold-sandwich restaurants, one of which supposedly served as many as 35,000 patrons each day. And Chicago's a city that loves to eat.
But whether he wore a hood himself or just approved the use of the site, Weeghman's sponsorship of Illinois' first Ku Klux Klan rally on his property in Lake Zurich was not met with much favor by his lunch-counter patrons. His business faltered and he was forced to sell out completely to Wrigley over the course of several years.
Sterling may eventually, or not so eventually, be forced to sell his team as well, and to a former Laker to boot. Yes, Magic Johnson's name is being thrown around, fueled by his ties to LA basketball and the minor detail of his ownership stake in the Dodgers. Seems like Johnson has a penchant for reclaiming moribund teams from deposed owners and then throwing boatloads of money at them, so maybe it'll work.
Okay, he's only done that once, but you see what I'm getting at. And the salary cap is quite a bit different in the NBA, so he can't necessarily ratchet the payroll into the stratosphere to maintain success. There are more than a few Cubs fans that look to Magic's ownership of the Dodgers as the prototype for Tom Ricketts, though that logic is tragically flawed. Still, you can't blame folks for wanting more for their team.
While I don't believe GQ took the personal beliefs of owners, be they past or present, into account in their list, it should come as no surprise that both the Clippers and Cubs appear near the top of the 20 Worst Sports Franchises of All Time. But hey, at least they're both behind the Detroit Lions and the entire city of Cleveland.
"Have you considered rooting for somebody else?" asks the line from the blurb at the beginning of the top 20 slideshow. I can confidently answer "No," but I can't say that I've not endured several face-palmings when I review all the decisions my team has made over the years. Can a sports franchise have DNA, or some sort of predisposition for certain behaviors or results?
Well, of course not. But sometimes I wonder. I mean, the Cubs have proven time and time again that even a change in ownership might not be enough to reverse the fortunes of a franchise.
Should Donald Sterling be forced to sell his team? How important do you believe the owner is to the overall health and success of his team? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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