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Top 10 List: Worst Team Owners in Sports Today

John CristContributor IIIApril 30, 2014

Top 10 List: Worst Team Owners in Sports Today

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    Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling received a lifetime ban Tuesday from NBA commissioner Adam Silver and will likely be forced to sell the team.
    Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling received a lifetime ban Tuesday from NBA commissioner Adam Silver and will likely be forced to sell the team.Associated Press

    The overwhelming majority of NBA players and fans alike got exactly what they wanted Tuesday, as commissioner Adam Silver banned Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life, fined him $2.5 million—the maximum allowable under the league's constitution—and put a plan in place to force him to sell the franchise.

    Sterling, who for decades has been known in the City of Angels as a bigoted slumlord as much as an owner of a professional basketball team, was caught on tape by his girlfriend making racially repugnant comments that sent shock waves throughout social media and beyond after being released by TMZ. Silver, faced with his first major crisis since taking the reins from David Stern in February, responded with a swift brand of justice that earned him a lot of respect from each spoke of the NBA wheel.

    Assuming Silver gets the votes, and he was quite confident during his press conference in Midtown Manhattan that he would, Sterling will be ousted from one of this country's most exclusive clubs.

    But Sterling is not alone, as there are more than a few team owners among the four major sports in America that do little more than torture their respective fanbases with embarrassing performances both on and off the field of play. From an unwillingness to open the checkbook to various run-ins with the long arm of the law, success in business does not necessarily equate to success in sports.

    In alphabetical order, here are the 10 worst owners that the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL currently suffer.

     

Clayton Bennett

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Bennett, who has owned the Oklahoma City Thunder—formerly known as the Seattle SuperSonics—since buying them from Howard Schultz in 2006, promised Schultz that he would make every effort to keep the team in the Emerald City.

    It was later discovered that Bennett and his group of investors never had any desire to have the franchise remain in Seattle and moved them to Oklahoma City at their first opportunity, essentially eradicating the SuperSonics from existence by changing the club's name, logo and colors. All the more stunning, he became president of the NBA's relocation committee in 2011 and blocked the Sacramento Kings from moving to Seattle in 2013.

    He could have had the best Big Three in the league had he been willing to keep stars Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden together, but instead Bennett traded Harden to the Houston Rockets in 2012 for 50 cents on the dollar to ensure he wouldn't have to pay any luxury tax.

     

Mike Brown

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Brown, who has owned the Cincinnati Bengals since the death of his father in 1991, began his tenure by firing popular coach Sam Wyche and then threatening to leave the Queen City because he didn't feel Riverfront Stadium had enough seating capacity or luxury boxes.

    Despite coach Marvin Lewis and Co. becoming one of the better teams in the AFC recently, Brown has only put together five winning seasons in 23 years and is yet to capture a postseason W—the Bengals are 0-5 in the playoffs under his direction, including three straight losses in the Wild Card round from 2011-13. Also, Cincinnati players have shown up on the police blotter as much as any other team in the league, yet the club has continued to sign some less-than-reputable characters.

    Notoriously tight with a buck, Brown refuses to hire a general manager, employs a skeleton crew of scouts and fails to do what it takes financially to attract premium free agents.

     

Jim Crane

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    Associated Press

    Crane, who has owned the Houston Astros since purchasing them from Drayton McLane in 2011, is also the top dog at Champion Energy, Crane Capital Group, Crane Worldwide Logistics and Crane Freight and Shipping.

    Perhaps trying to recoup the $680 million investment he made in order to acquire the team, Houston's talent level has resembled that of a Triple-A organization for the last few seasons. After losing 106 and 107 games as a member of the NL Central in 2011 and 2012, respectively, the Astros reclassified to the AL West in 2013—the move was a condition of Crane's agreement with MLB to buy the club—and promptly posted a horrifically bad 51-111 mark.

    This year, the Astros currently have the worst record in the American League so far at 9-18, as only nine players on the mostly anonymous 40-man roster make more than $510,100 in salary.

     

Mark Davis

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Davis, who has owned the Oakland Raiders since the death of his father—NFL legend-turned-cartoon character Al Davis—in 2011, has done little to resurrect a once-proud organization that boasts one of the most rabid followings in all of sports.

    After coach Jon Gruden curiously left the franchise in 2001 to take the same job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Raiders have burned through field generals at a historic rate. From Bill Callahan (2002-03) to Norv Turner (2004-05) to Art Shell (2006) to Lane Kiffin (2007-08) to Tom Cable (2008-10) to Hue Jackson (2011) to Dennis Allen (2012-present), aside from Callahan taking Oakland to the Super Bowl with Gruden's players in 2002, the Silver and Black have lost 11 or more games nine times since 2003.

    Davis and Co. don't appear to have any idea what they're doing personnel-wise, as evidenced by them trading away first- and second-round draft choices to the Cincinnati Bengals for an aging Carson Palmer, only to send him to the Arizona Cardinals two years later for a sixth-rounder and a conditional pick.

     

James Dolan

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    MARK LENNIHAN/Associated Press

    Dolan, who has owned the New York Knicks—and Madison Square Garden along with them—since Paramount Communications was bought by Viacom in 1994, was more interested in music, alcohol and drugs as a young man before his father made him CEO of Cablevision at age 40.

    The Knicks endured nothing but losing seasons from 2001-2002 to 2009-10 thanks in large part to Dolan putting his faith in Isiah Thomas, who was a Hall of Fame player but nothing short of a disaster as a GM and coach. Thomas only got the job after legendary coach Larry Brown signed a five-year, $50 million contact but was unceremoniously shown the door following a lone 23-59 campaign.

    New York has handed big money to a litany of players who didn't deserve it and squandered draft pick after draft pick, so even 13-time NBA champion Phil Jackson might fail in his new role as president of the Knicks with Dolan looking over his shoulder.

     

Jim Irsay

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    Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

    Irsay, who has owned the Indianapolis Colts since the death of his father in 1997, had control of an NFL franchise at 37 years old despite no further qualifications than having the right bloodline—dear old dad named him vice president and GM at the ripe age of 25.

    As fortunate as any organization in league history at the quarterback position over the last two decades, the Colts were lucky enough to draft Peyton Manning with the first pick in 1998 and then Andrew Luck at No. 1 in 2012, with Manning a lock for the Hall of Fame and Luck seemingly on his way there. Irsay, meanwhile, in contrast to his two classy signal-callers, beats his chest on Twitter like a college kid with 'roid rage and looks for any opportunity to put his goatee in front of a camera.

    Earlier this year, Irsay was arrested under suspicion of DUI and drug possession, which forced him to relinquish the day-to-day business of the Colts to his daughter until he gets out of rehab.

     

Jeffrey Loria

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Loria, who has owned the Miami Marlins since buying them from John W. Henry in 2002, previously owned the Montreal Expos—Canadian baseball fans largely blame him for their team eventually retreating south of the border to become the Washington Nationals.

    After years of fighting with local authorities to help him get out of a habitually empty Sun Life Stadium, Loria finally made a deal with the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County to build Marlins Park, which included $347 million of public money. Initially signing a slew of high-priced free agents in 2012 to open the new stadium with as much fanfare as possible, shortly thereafter he gutted the roster of its marquee names and currently has the second-lowest payroll in baseball.

    The Marlins are 25th in MLB home attendance so far this season, which is unheard of for a club with the newest facility.

     

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment

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    Toronto Star

    Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Toronto Maple Leafs of the NHL, Toronto Raptors of the NBA, Toronto FC of Major League Soccer and Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League, has a founding story that dates all the way back to 1927.

    The Maple Leafs, an "original six" franchise that won 13 Stanley Cups from 1917-18 to 1966-67, has been ringless for almost half a century and only qualified for the playoffs once since 2003-04—by the way, 16 of the 30 NHL teams (53.3 percent) make the postseason. But MLSE still prints money hand over fist, to the point where many jaded fans believe the organization doesn't mind being at the bottom of the standings so long as it has a healthy bottom line.

    As far as the Raptors go, from Vince Carter to Tracy McGrady to Chris Bosh, none of their star players appear to make any attempt to stay in Toronto for long.

     

Donald Sterling

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    Associated Press

    Sterling, who has owned the Los Angeles Clippers since buying them from Irv Levin in 1981, has watched from courtside seats for more than three decades while his team assembled the worst record among the four major professional sports leagues in this country.

    With a reputation as a ruthless businessman, first as a lawyer and then as a real estate mogul, Sterling reportedly discriminated against minorities and preferred not to allow some of them to become tenants in his buildings. Now he has been blackballed by the NBA after one of his female acquaintances—he is estranged from his wife, but not divorced—leaked an audio recording of him disparaging her association with members of the African-American community.

    A litigious man by nature, Sterling is not expected to make his exit from the NBA a peaceful one.

     

Charles Wang

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    Diane Bondareff/Associated Press

    Wang, who has owned the New York Islanders since buying them from Sanjay Kumar in 2004—he was a minority owner going back to 2000—openly admitted that if he could do it all over again, he'd never have bought the franchise.

    He hired Neil Smith to be the team's general manager in 2006 only to fire him 40 days later, choosing then to give the job to Garth Snow, who was still the team's backup goalie at the time. Wang spent wildly on a 15-year contract for Rick DiPietro and a 10-year deal for Alexei Yashin, plus he was ready to give Michael Peca a 10-year commitment of his own before then-GM Mike Milbury nixed the idea.

    Ultimately failing in his attempt to keep the organization on Long Island, Wang and the Islanders will be moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn come 2015.

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