The NFL Is the Epitome of a Good-Ol'-Boy Network

Erik DianaCorrespondent IAugust 27, 2008

As someone who has bled black and gold for all of his Pittsburgh teams, let me just first say that the Rooneys (Dan especially) are the absolute definition of class and stewardship of any professional owners in all of North American sports.

I love the Rooneys and actually consider them a part of my life for the way they have cared for my favorite team in all of sports. And many "Pittsburghers" feel the same way!

There may not be a more honest and fair owner in all of sports than Mr. Dan Rooney himself. My issue that will come of this article will not be about that; it'll be about the way the league may be engaged in collusion to keep another man from owning the Steelers, and that's just wrong!

The Rooney family owns considerable investments in gambling interests, and the NFL, in practicing due diligence, is wanting them to step away from these sources of income.

Since each brother of the Rooney family owns a 16 percent share of their 80 percent stake (with the McGinley family owning the other 20 percent stake), Dan Rooney faces a real possibility that his brothers could sell to a higher bidder if he can't garner the capital needed to buy them out of their shares. If that were to happen, Dan Rooney could still run the day-to-day operations, theoretically.

Billionaire Stanley Druckenmiller, a successful hedge fund manager on Wall Street, wants to purchase the Rooney brothers' shares and become the majority owner. (If one of the brothers sold their interest in the Steelers to Dan Rooney, then this whole circus would be pointless.)

Here lies the problem: The NFL owners could just collude and block Druckenmiller from purchasing the shares. Never mind that he may make the best offer, all that is needed is for nine out of the 32 owners to scuttle the whole deal. Mr. Druckenmiller needs approval from 75 percent of the league to become the majority owner of the Steelers.

It would be a sad day if Dan Rooney weren't the chairman of the Steelers. But, in life, everything must change. All good things come to an end. The Rooney brothers also want to get rid of a huge tax burden for when they pass away and leave the shares to their children.

The children would be liable for what each share is worth on the day that any Rooney brother passes away. (Remember, Art Sr. plopped down $2,500 to buy the Steelers and now they're a billion-dollar entity at least.) And they should have the freedom to do so and not be bogged down by other majority owners of the NFL.

Dan Rooney has done so much for the NFL—everything from collective bargaining, soothing the AFL/NFL merger by putting his team in the AFC, and helping implement the "Rooney Rule," which requires teams to interview a minority candidate—that the other owners may just block any sale that his brothers want to accomplish. If that were to happen, it would be terribly wrong!

Roger Goodell is already stating publicly that he wants Dan to own the franchise still. "There's great respect for the Rooney family in the National Football League, and we want to do everything we can to ensure that the Steelers continue to be operated by the Rooneys and the way they've been operated." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Another Goodell quote on the matter: "They've run a model franchise, and I think everyone in Pittsburgh recognizes how proud they are of the Steelers, and we in the NFL recognize how fortunate we've been to have Dan Rooney's leadership and now Art's leadership,''

Mr. Goodell said. "That is certainly a consideration and the ownership wants to make sure this team is run consistently with those principles, and that if Dan Rooney wants an opportunity to continue to run the franchise, I think that's an interest some owners have." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

If that's not collusion, I don't know what is!

I will say this: I do want to see the Steelers in the Rooney's hands. However, I would love the Steelers to have a billionaire's capital as well. It's a fact that if Dan buys all of his brothers out, he may go into to too much debt to do so. He also hasn't given the name of his minority investors to the public.

This situation is far from over, and hopefully it will resolve peacefully and not with the Rooneys split apart because of money. If that were to happen, then everything they've all worked for would be slightly tarnished.