On December 17, founder and 48% owner of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers Jerry Richardson announced that he would be selling his portion of the team upon the conclusion of the 2017 season. The remaining 52% is owned by a group of 12 investors who are not obligated to sale. Yet, in the last week, top-bidders including Sean “Diddy” Combs, Colin Kaepernick and Steph Curry have expressed serious interest in buying out Richardson’s majority. The possibility of this change in ownership, let alone it actually happening, is huge for Black America considering that nearly 70% of all NFL athletes are Black but currently answer to white, majority-holding owners. That’s right; there arezero Black majority-holding owners in the NFL. This far-reaching gap feeds the long held stereotypes that Black people are best kept entertaining and not involved with anything on the business side. So, this isn’t about football or its commercialization. This is about representation in decision-making positions.
Diddy is in the running to buy the Panthers and it is historic for two reasons: one, it puts a Black man in a decision-making position in the NFL and two, it can help to advance the political agenda of Black athletes, especially those in the NFL. I define decision-making positions as a person of esteemed status who can make decisions without asking anyone else for permission because he or she has the final say. It’s easy to think that all positions of power held by Black people achieve this goal, but this is not always the case:Defensive Quality Control for the San Francisco 49ers Demeco Ryans cannot single-handedly tell the 49ers front office, with a reasonable expectation that they will comply, to re-sign Kaepernick after he was blackballed throughout the NFL for kneeling during the national anthem. Ryans’ position of power is practically useless in this matter because the 49ers ownership makes the ultimate decision to which everyone within the organization must adhere. If Ryans were in a decision-making position, however, he could be the one to green light Kaepernick’s return to the NFL.
And this is exactly why Diddy acquiring the Panthers would be monumental. If the deal goes through, he could sign Kaepernick because his decision-making position allows him to do so. But, let’s stop with the speculations and go directly to the source: Diddy came right out and said, “I will immediately address the Colin Kaepernick situation by putting him in the running for next year’s starting quarterback,” according to theNew York Times. Diddy’s “addressing” is a smart business move because last season,Kaepernick had a 59% pass completion rate, a 1% interception rate, and 468 rushing yards. Based on performance, Kaepernick is at least a third-string quarterback and at most a starter. Football aside, Diddy purchasing the Panthers and signing Kaepernick has the power to advance the political agenda of Black athletes, and the Black community as a whole. This power play would be a demonstration of Black solidarity and also proves that social justice and protesting the treatment of Black individuals in this country should be the first and foremost concern of the Black community and its supporters. It should be above paychecks and status, not only because Kaepernick sacrificed both, but also because its prioritization is the only way that racial equity will be reached. If Black people truly want an equal slice of the pie, protests and lobbying, if not more, will have to happen for each and every crumb.
This progress starts with the Black community valuing itself enough to demand equal amounts of ownership from white-owned companies, such as the NFL. It’s mind-boggling to play for, or to support, a league that makes billions of dollars off of its 70% Black players, who all answer to white, majority-holding owners, while remaining silent throughout the systematic oppression that disproportionately affects Black men, women, and children. This logic basically cash crops Black entertainment without regard to the Black struggles that are separate from torn ACLs and concussions. When I say “struggle”, I am referring to the fact that Black incarceration ratesare five times higher than that of white people’s. Or the fact that Black women arepaid 64 cents for every dollar that white men are paid for doing the same job. Or how in April 2018, the Flint Water Crisis will be four years old in a city that is 60% black and over 40% of its residents live below the poverty line. Or…or… or… and the list of racial disparities continues.
Of course, a Black-owned Panthers team may not solve the struggles I just listed, or end systematic oppression altogether, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Each step brings about a new Black achievement that collectively helps to end white supremacy and showcase Black excellence. So yes, I’m waiting for Diddy, Kaepernick, and Curry to go in together and buy the Panthers. I’m waiting for Diddy to sign Kaepernick to the team. I’m waiting for the white-owned NFL who relies on mostly Black athletes for revenue to have Black majority owners as well. The point is simple: the NFL needs a majority black-owned team and Diddy attempting to purchase the Panthers, and hopefully securing it, will be huge for him, Kaepernick the NFL and the Black community.