Today is certainly an emotional day for Arizona Cardinals owner and chairman Michael Bidwill.
It is the first Father’s Day for Michael without his dad, Bill, who passed away last October at the age of 88.
Bill had been the team’s sole owner since 1972 and moved the team from St. Louis, Missouri, to Arizona in 1988. But nothing was ever easy for this family-run franchise.
His father, Charles became the franchise’s owner in 1933 when they played in Chicago, Illinois. He passed away in 1947, the year of the team’s only championship, and ownership transferred to his wife, Violet. She married Walter Wolfner in 1949 and the franchise moved to St. Louis in 1960.
The NFL wanted to keep the AFL from placing a team there, which was understood as having two teams in Chicago would not be viable in the future.
Two years later, Violet died, but Wolfner went to court in an attempt to stop the transfer of the team to sons Bill and Charles Jr. — known as Stormy and who was three years older than Bill. Wolfner argued he should be the owner because the boys had been adopted. The strange twist was that Bill and Stormy had never been told they were adopted and learned of it during those legal proceedings.
Be that as it may, a judge ruled in favor of the sons. In 1972, Bill became sole owner.
Perhaps most pivotal in the club’s recent history was when Michael left his job as a federal prosecutor to become vice president/general counsel in 1996.
At the time, the team was still playing in Sun Devil Stadium, home of Arizona State University, and there had been little traction regarding a new venue. Michael changed that. Working tirelessly and with great aplomb through the different possibilities, voters went to the polls on Nov. 7, 2000, to approve the facility in Glendale.
Two days before the game, the Cardinals upset the Washington Redskins with the help of a record-tying 104-yard fumble return by eventual Hall of Famer Aeneas Williams. That was one of only three wins for the team that season, but the victory is often credited for bringing the narrow vote home.
With more than 900,000 votes cast, the stadium measure passed 52 percent to 48 percent by a mere 33,123 votes. Since the stadium opened in 2006, there have been 144 consecutive sellouts.
Most important, Michael, who often referred to his father as “misunderstood,” has carried on his penchant for diversity. Bill was named the Tank Younger Award winner in 2010 by the Fritz Pollard Alliance for his impact on diversity hiring in the NFL. Bill hired the first minority female front-office executive, Adele Harris, the first black head coach/general manager combo (Rod Graves and Dennis Green) and also employed Bob Wallace in the team’s front office. He was also the owner when then-head coach Bruce Arians brought Jen Welter on as the first female in NFL history to serve on a coaching staff.
Currently, the Cardinals have eight minority assistant coaches, six of which in the personnel department including director of player personnel Quentin Harris and director of pro scouting Adrian Wilson.
During the last three months, the Cardinals have been as proactive as any team in the league with varying programs to help those in the community affected by the pandemic. In addition, as protests have continued since the death of George Floyd on May 25, numerous players have spoken about the support they have received from the organization.
Additionally, Michael currently serves as one of six owners on the NFL Workplace Diversity Committee, which will be conducting its third annual Quarterback Coaching Summit (this time virtually) over the next two days.
Fitting that Michael will participate. And it begins the day after Father’s Day, where he continues to carry on the legacy of his dad.