While the world burns around professional sports and Major League Baseball faces a crisis with COVID-19 impacting its schedule less than one week after beginning the shortened 60-game season, enormous news comes out of Kansas City.
Patrick Mahomes, the Super Bowl-winning quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs, has bought a stake in the Kansas City Royals.
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) July 28, 2020
Mahomes, who won’t turn 25 until Sept. 17, signed the richest contract in the history of professional sports in July. The 12-year deal is reportedly worth more than $450 million.
But this isn’t about a half-billion dollars burning a hole in his pocket.
The son of a former major leaguer has become an owner of a Major League team. (Pat Mahomes pitched in the majors for 11 years.)
Major League Baseball has been facing an issue for decades. We have seen a consistent slide in the number of Black players in MLB for many reasons. I would argue the biggest reasons are the cost of playing youth baseball (especially at high levels in travel ball) and the lack of fields in cities across the country. But the realities remain: the game needs more Black players.
In the current social environment, Black players in MLB have stepped up their social voice. But the number of Black players is still strikingly low.
There is another, enormous social issue in professional sports: minority ownership. There is one Latino majority owner in MLB (Arte Moreno owns the Angels). There are other minority owners; Linda Alvarado owns part of the Colorado Rockies, Derek Jeter owns a piece of the Miami Marlins and Magic Johnson owns a part of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Michael Jordan owns the Charlotte Hornets. But the overwhelming majority of professional sports ownership is old, white men.
Let me be clear: what was announced today is enormous on every level.
An active, young Black athlete has bought into the professional sports ownership club.
Indeed, a superstar quarterback who is still entering the prime of his career has put his money where his mouth is and purchased a part of the major league team in the city where he plans to play professional football for the next 10-12 years.
We’ve all read the criticisms of Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez building a group in efforts to buy the New York Mets. There are certainly political reasons for baseball insiders to question/doubt the ARod-JLo group’s efforts to buy. ARod played for the Yankees (among others) but never the Mets. Buying a team in New York City is a huge money play, and an expensive one. ARod made a boatload of money during his career, a career that is stained with multiple suspensions for using PEDs.
One of the unheralded differences here is Kansas City isn’t a major market. The Royals have enjoyed success recently, but they’re entering a rebuild. On face value the Royals aren’t a club that figures to appreciate as quickly as a team in Boston, New York, Chicago or LA. The Royals certainly aren’t going to add brand prestige to Mahomes the way an ownership stake in a bigger market team would.
Mahomes has committed himself to the Kansas City market at an unprecedented level.
And he’s taken a significant step in breaking the concrete ceiling for other Blacks who hope to buy into the club.