10 Times Sport Team Owners Were Accused Of Racist Behavior And The Consequences They Were Handed

Lebron James recently questioned the media about why he was not asked about the controversial Jerry Jones photo that was published by the Washington Post. The photo shows a teenage Jones amongst other white students in 1957, some of whom were bullying Black students during desegregation at North Little Rock High School.

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In light of James calling out the media, let's take a look at 10 times sports team owners were accused of racism.

Lebron James
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1.Jerry Jones

Jerry Jones in at North Little Rock High School in1957, blocking Black students from entering.

The Washington Post recently released a photo of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who was spotted in a crowd of rebellious white students at North Little Rock High School in 1957. Many of the white kids were blocking and bullying Black students from entering the school during desegregation. When asked about the photo, Jones stated, "That was 65 years ago, I had no idea when I walked up there what I was doing, just a reminder to me how to improve and do things the right way." Many fans and pundits in the media were extremely unsatisfied with his response. This controversy also comes a few years after he faced backlash for telling Cowboy players that if they kneeled during the national anthem as a peaceful protest, they couldn't play. As of now, there has been backlash and pushback, but there are no consequences for Jones.

AP Photo/William P. Straeter

Jones receives backlash as fans and the media want answers.

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2.Daniel Snyder

Daniel Snyder on the sidelines.

Daniel Snyder has been one of the most controversial owners in the NFL for years, stemming from alleged misogynistic behavior and racial insensitivity. Snyder purchased the Washington Commanders in 1999. During this time, they were called a redacted name that was blatantly racist toward Native Americans. The indigenous community pushed for a name change, as they felt the original team name was derogatory and racist. During an interview with USA Today in 2013, Snyder uttered, "We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps." In 2020, due to financial pressure, the name was changed to the Washington Football Team and later the Washington Commanders.

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3.Bob McNair

Bob McNair close up.

In the midst of Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem to peacefully protest police brutality, there was extreme division on the stance and Kaepernick's method. Bob McNair, then owner of the Houston Texans, had a distasteful remark, reportedly saying, "We can't have the inmates running the prison," in response to players wanting to take a knee during the anthem. Not only did this upset fans, but also Texan players who wrestled with the idea of leaving the team. McNair quickly released a very underwhelming apology, but then retracted his apology a year later, telling the Wall Street Journal, "The main thing I regret is apologizing."

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McNair's remarks left Texan players torn.

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4.Donald Sterling

Donald Sterling at Clippers game.

Probably the most notable owner who spewed hate and racism, was Donald Sterling. In 2014, Sterling was heard over a recording captured by TMZ, telling his girlfriend V. Stiviano, "You can sleep with [black people]. You can bring them in, you can do whatever you want. The little I ask you is not to promote it on that...and not to bring them to my games." The aggressive rant lasted over nine minutes, also including a strange jab at Magic Johnson. This wasn't his first accusation of racism, as he was sued by the Department of Justice in 2006 for allegedly refusing to rent to Black and Mexican tenants, which led to a settlement of $2.73 million. Ultimately, Sterling was banned from the NBA for life. This well-deserved punishment was a turn in momentum, as the NBA took a bold stance against racism.

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Listen to the full rant here.

Watch Donald Sterling get banned from the NBA for life.

5.Marge Schott

Marge Schott at Reds game.

Marge Schott is probably a lesser-known name amongst the Gen Z population, but perhaps had the most outrageous and racist comments. In 1984, Schott purchased a controlling stake in the Cincinnati Reds and served as president and CEO. Her reign was short, as in 1992, it was reported by former Reds executives that she referred to players Eric Davis and Dave Parker as "million dollar ni*****." The former vice president of business operations for the Reds testified that he witnessed her say these remarks. These were just one of her many hatred-filled comments, alongside multiple alleged anti-Semitic rants and allegedly keeping a swastika logo in her home. In 1993, she was temporarily suspended for her comments. In 1996, Sports Illustrated reported that Schott spoke of Japanese prime minister Kiichi Miyazawa using a "cartoonish Japanese accent." In 1999, she ended up selling her controlling interest in the team.

Rick Stewart / Getty Images

6.Robert Sarver

Robert Sarver at NBA game.

Robert Sarver has been the owner of the Phoenix Suns and the Phoenix Mercury for 17 years. After the release of an ESPN report, alleging racist and sexual remarks made by Sarver, the NBA launched an investigation. They discovered he said the N-word five times while quoting others and used sexually derogatory language toward women. These findings led to a 1-year suspension and a $10 million fine. Sarver apologized immediately, but later went on to announce he'd be selling the team.

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7.Woody Johnson

Woody Johnson owner of New York Jets

The owner of the New York Jets and the former United States Ambassador to the UK found himself in a frenzy of controversial allegations. Johnson was under investigation by the State Department after he allegedly made comments questioning the purpose of Black History Month and perpetuating stereotypes of Black men. Woody was also investigated for alleged sexist comments made insinuating he preferred working with women because they were cheap and worked harder than men. These comments (which Johnson has denied making) left many unhappy and even more confused by the NFL's lack of action surrounding the matter, as he received no punishment.

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Jets players at the time expressed their outrage.

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8.Kelly Loeffler

Kelly Loeffler ahead of a rally.

Georgia Senator and co-owner of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream took an extremely strong stance against Black Lives Matter despite having a predominantly Black team in the predominantly Black city of Atlanta. In a letter to the WNBA's commissioner Cathy Engelbert, Loeffler stated, "The lives of each and every African American matter, and there’s no debating the fact that there is no place for racism in our country. However, I adamantly oppose the Black Lives Matter political movement, which has advocated for the defunding of police, called for the removal of Jesus from churches and the disruption of the nuclear family structure, harbored anti-Semitic views, and promoted violence and destruction across the country. I believe it is totally misaligned with the values and goals of the WNBA and the Atlanta Dream, where we support tolerance and inclusion.” She was met with backlash from the WNBA's commissioner and WNBA players who expressed their disappointment. In 2021, the team was sold and actually partially purchased by a former player under Loeffler's ownership.

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The WNBPA calls for Loeffler's job, and Renee Montgomery becomes a part owner.

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9.Calvin Griffith

Griffith at a new conference.

Calvin Griffith, the former owner of the Washington Senators, once vowed to always remain in Washington. However, in 1960, he moved the team to Minnesota, becoming the Minnesota Twins. During a speech in Waseca, Minnesota in 1978, Minneapolis Tribune staff writer Nick Coleman was in attendance and wrote down what he heard from the speech. He noted an awful part of the speech from Griffith, stating:

"At that point, Griffith interrupted himself, lowered his voice and asked if there were any Blacks around. After he looked around the room and assured himself that his audience was white, Griffith resumed his answer. 'I’ll tell you why we came to Minnesota,' he said. 'It was when I found out you only had 15,000 Blacks here. Black people don’t go to ball games, but they’ll fill up a rassling ring and put up such a chant it’ll scare you to death. It’s unbelievable. We came here because you’ve got good, hardworking, white people here.'”

Griffith continued to own the Twins, even having a statue built of him 26 years later. However, with societal progression and a new awareness of racial oppression, his statue was removed as a result of his racial comments.

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10.Bruce Levenson

Burce Levenson at Hawks game.

After the Donald Sterling catastrophe, the NBA's zero tolerance for racism became a main topic and led to owners like the Atlanta Hawks' Bruce Levenson confessing to racist remarks before they were unwillingly revealed. In a 2012 email thread, Levenson discussed how he believed the Hawks' Black fanbase was scaring away white fans. Although he may have not been alone in this foolish way of thinking, the idea of Black fans being an issue attending a predominantly Black sport was so upsetting that it led to Levenson apologizing and realizing the best decision was to sell the team.

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