Magic Johnson — Sports, like any other business in a variety of industries, is undergoing fast transformation. While the majority of the focus is on the players and coaches, club ownership is as important.
Changes in ownership or additions to ownership have a substantial influence on the trajectory of a sports enterprise. It can occasionally result in a happy conclusion, but it can also take the franchise downhill. In any case, ownership is a point of contention.
When entrepreneur and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson became a part-owner of the Washington Commanders, the NFL was shaken up
The NFL owners overwhelmingly approved the purchase of the Washington Commanders by an association of billionaires led by Josh Harris and including Magic Johnson last Thursday.
The massive conglomerate has already paid owner Daniel Snyder a record $6.05 billion for the franchise.
On Friday morning, Magic Johnson, a five-time NBA champion, expressed his delight at the acquisition, saying:
“It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Magic Johnson makes history
The former Los Angeles Lakers champion has made history once more, this time with the National Football League’s Washington Commanders. He is the organization’s first African-American owner. With a new athletics challenge, Johnson believes the club may benefit from an inside revamp.
“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
Daniel Snyder’s Washington Commanders have been a difficult franchise to run. Throughout his ownership of the Commanders, he has been involved in a number of difficulties.
Snyder was investigated by the NFL twice, both times for questionable workplace behavior. On Thursday, one of the investigations was concluded.
According to attorney Mary Jo White, the Washington Commanders omitted to declare funds meant for distribution to other franchisees. Snyder was also accused of harassing a female colleague sexually.
Snyder was fined $60 million for his acts.
An emotional new start for Magic Johnson
Magic Johnson, 63, has extensive experience directing big sports companies. In addition to Magic Johnson Enterprises, which ran over 100 Starbucks stores between 1998 and 2010, Johnson owns the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA, and the Los Angeles FC of Major League Soccer. He then sold them for a $100 million profit.
As he spoke about his success in other business ventures, the new Washington Commanders co-owner was filled with emotion, choking 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 poised to guide an organization that has won three Super Bowls in the previous three decades. He is instead trying to persuade the other members of the ownership group. Johnson wishes to foster 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 follows in the footsteps of Ariel Investments CEO Mellody Hobson and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the first Black owners of the Denver Broncos. He aims to be a role model for other African-Americans, influencing them to feel that they, too, can develop in their professions and occupy prominent positions in 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.”