Outspoken Owners in Sports History
Al Davis has owned the Raiders since 1966. In that time, he has been involved in more than his fair share of controversies, especially involving Pete Rozelle, the former NFL commissioner. In 1982, he successfully filed an antitrust lawsuit to force the NFL to allow him to relocate the Raiders to Los Angeles. Davis moved the team back to Oakland in 1995 and fired off another lawsuit aimed at the NFL. That suit, which dealt with the NFL preventing the team from relocating to another LA stadium, failed.
Arguably the most vocal owner in the NFL, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is not afraid to speak his mind. After a 1-7 start to the 2010 season, Jones said, "There are a lot of people here who are certainly going to suffer and suffer consequences." The next day, head coach Wade Phillips was fired.
When LeBron James announced on live television that he would be playing for Miami instead of Cleveland, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert's response was swift. That night, Gilbert published an open letter on the Cavaliers' website, calling James "narcissistic" and a "self-declared former `King.'" He was later fined $100,000 for the letter.
Mark Cuban and his antics have often grabbed more headlines than the team he owns, the Dallas Mavericks. He has been fined for everything from criticizing referees to prematurely expressing a possible interest in signing LeBron James in 2010. Cuban, who was asked by head coach Rick Carlisle to remain quiet during the 2011 playoffs, hoisted the Larry O'Brien trophy for the first time in June 2011.
Sports owners are sometimes quoted as being dissatisfied with their players. But rather than just issuing this frustration to the media, Clippers owner Donald Sterling unleashed insults at then-Clipper Baron Davis during a game. Sterling, who was sitting courtside at a game in 2010, was quoted yelling, "Why are you in the game?" and "You're out of shape!" at Davis.
George Steinbrenner, the longtime owner of the New York Yankees, was known simply as The Boss. And he was not afraid to yield his power. One of his most notable clashes with players was with Dave Winfield. After Winfield was not hitting well in September 1985, Steinbrenner asked, "Where is Reggie Jackson? We need a Mr. October or a Mr. September. Winfield is Mr. May..." In 1992, The Boss was banned by then-commissioner Fay Vincent after it was revealed that Steinbrenner had paid someone to find "dirt" on Winfield. He was reinstated in 1993.
In 2009, with Tennessee leading Buffalo 41-17 at the end of the game, Titans owner Bud Adams let his fingers do the talking -- his two middle ones, that is. Adams' action cost him $250,000.
After the Red Sox lost their bidding war against the New York Yankees for star pitcher Jose Contreras, in 2002 Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino called the Yankees "the evil empire," saying that "it extends its tentacles even into Latin America." The nickname stuck in the coming years, as the Red Sox -- Yankees rivalry escalated to new heights.
Marge Schott, who owned the Cincinnati Reds from 1984-99, tended to make headlines for all of the wrong reasons. During her tenure she uttered numerous racist and homophobic remarks, comments which caused her to be banned from day-to-day operations of the Reds, including the entire 1993 season.
Whether it was through proposing that baseball use orange baseballs or through clashing with players on his team, Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley was certainly a character. After the relationship between Finley and some of the A's players soured, Finley gave the 1973 World Series champions rings that did not have any diamonds in them, a display of frugality that did not go over well with the players. "Screw `em," Finley said. "The next time we win, I won't give them anything." The A's won the title again the next year and the 1974 ring featured a diamond.
The majority owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1972 to '90, Harold Ballard certainly gave the media memorable quotes. He once called NHL President John Zeigler a "no-nothing shrimp," and after being convicted of tax evasion said, "If you got a chance to screw the government out of a few bucks, you'd do it, too."
Arguably the most outspoken owner in the NHL today, Ted Leonsis of the Washington Capitals and the Washington Wizards has his own blog, "Ted's Take," on which he posts multiple times a day. In 2010 he got into a dispute with hockey columnist Damein Cox after Cox wrote a book about Alexander Ovechkin that alleged certain illegalities in the way Leonsis signed Ovechkin. "The writer can say anything he wants about me," Leonsis wrote. "He doesn't scare me. :-) He just can't distort facts. We won't let him and he is being called out on this one right here and now."