Magic Johnson — The world of sports, like any other entity in numerous fields, undergoes rapid change. While the majority of the attention is on the players and coaching staff, the ownership of a club is as essential.
The changes or additions to ownership have a significant impact on the path a sports organization will follow. Sometimes it results in something positive, but other times it sends the franchise into a downward spiral. Regardless, ownership is a hot topic.
The NFL was rocked when entrepreneur and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson became a part-owner of the Washington Commanders.
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Last Thursday, the NFL owners voted unanimously to accept the sale of the Washington Commanders to a group of billionaires led by Josh Harris, among whom was Magic Johnson.
The huge conglomerate has now purchased the team from owner Daniel Snyder for a record $6.05 billion.
Magic Johnson, a five-time NBA champion, expressed his joy at the acquisition on Friday morning, saying:
“It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Magic Johnson makes history
The former Los Angeles Lakers champion has created history yet again, this time with the Washington Commanders of the National Football League. He has become the franchise’s first Black co-owner. With a fresh challenge in the sports world, Johnson admitted that the club may benefit from an internal facelift.
“Well, first of all, you have to let the employees know that you respect them and it will be a safe place to work,” he explained.
“And we want you to have a winning attitude, too. These owners just can’t have a winning attitude. It’s got to trickle down to the employees. And then it’s got to trickle down to the coaches and trickle down to the players.”
“So if we respect them, they will respect us and go to the wall for us,” Johnson continued.
“And so – I’ve been in so many different sports teams … and we know how valuable these employees are, because they make it run every single day. And so we’re going to hire the best people. We already got a lot of great people. So this year it’s about listening, watching, and really learning.”
A team in peril
The Washington Commanders have been a troublesome franchise under Daniel Snyder. The Commanders have been entangled in several controversies throughout his tenure as owner.
Snyder was investigated twice by the NFL, both times for inappropriate workplace behavior. One of the investigations was completed on Thursday.
Attorney Mary Jo White discovered that the Washington Commanders failed to report money that should have been shared with other franchisees. Snyder was also discovered to have sexually harassed a female colleague.
Snyder was fined $60 million as a consequence.
An emotional new start for Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson, 63, is no stranger to acquiring major sports clubs. Outside of sports, Johnson owns the Los Angeles Dodgers, the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, and the MLS’s Los Angeles FC. He also owns Magic Johnson Enterprises, which operated more than 100 Starbucks locations between 1998 and 2010. He eventually sold them for a profit of $100 million.
The new Washington Commanders co-owner was overcome with emotion as he spoke about his company’s success, holding back tears.
“Breaking these barriers and going through these doors is important to me as a proud Black man,” he explained.
“I don’t know why God blessed me with these great opportunities. But I want to excel, not just for me and my family, but for all African Americans, making sure we can see ourselves in these seats. And I want people to know that we can do the job.”
Magic Johnson is ready to win at a team that has three Super Bowl trophies, but the last three decades have been barren of success. Instead, he is attempting to influence the rest of the ownership group. Johnson wants to create a winning culture.
“Without that, we can’t win on the field,” he said. “We want to do it the right way.”
Paving the way for others
Magic Johnson joins Ariel Investments CEO Mellody Hobson and former Secretary of State Denver Condoleezza Rice as part of the Denver Broncos ownership group as a Black owner. He aspires to be an example to other Black people, giving them hope that they, too, can advance their careers and hold key positions within the business.
“If we can excel at our roles, others will follow,” said Magic Johnson. “And I want them to be executives as well. I’m hoping that other owners will see that African Americans can do the job and give us opportunities.”