Could Diddy Actually Buy the NFL?

Diddy performs at the eTalk Festival Party in Toronto. Photo by Richard Burdett (Wikimedia Commons) CC License

As Emmitt Smith said in his Hall of Fame speech, “it’s only a dream until you write it down, and then it becomes a goal.” Hip-hop superstar Diddy took that crucial step this week when he went on Twitter to announce his dream of owning the National Football League. Not an NFL team, the entire league. “I did have a dream to own a NFL team but now my dream is to own our own league!” he wrote. “A league where you can be yourself. Have a retirement plan. Have freedom to be a great human and protest for your people without being demonized for your beliefs as a KING!! NEW DREAM ALERT!!!! SELL ME THE NFL NOW!!!!”

We all have crazy dreams from time to time, but unlike most people, Diddy is rich in connections, influence and, crucially, money. Does he have enough resources to turn his dream into a reality? We’ve looked into his net worth and business ventures and  come up with odds on his ability to buy America’s most successful pro-sports league.

If Diddy doesn’t swoop in and save players from the heavy hand of the league, will the NFL actually take the drastic step of prohibiting kneeling during the National Anthem? We’ve also set the odds on the future of the NFL’s anthem issue, including the potential for league-wide prohibition and possible suspensions.

Odds Diddy buys the NFL: 10,000/1

There is no shortage of obstacles preventing Diddy from becoming King of the NFL, but the biggest one of all is financial. According to Forbes, the average NFL franchise is worth $2.34 billion, and some, like the Dallas Cowboys, are worth in excess of $4 billion. That’s a whole lot of Benjamins, particularly if Diddy has his sights set on owning all 32 franchises, which is essentially what you have to do to become the owner of the NFL in toto. The approximate price tag for that shopping spree would be $74.88 billion. Diddy’s net worth, meanwhile, is “just” $820 million.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Diddy can come up with that much scratch, he would still need to convince all 32 owners to sell in order to become the de facto owner of the league. There are a handful of owners who may be willing to cash out for the right price, but what about men like Jerry Jones, whose entire identity is tied to his association with the Cowboys? Or how about the Green Bay Packers, who are owned by a non-profit corporation made up of 360,760 shareholders? Would they really relinquish their control to an outsider like Diddy?

One of the things that Diddy has going for him is his tremendous influence. The 47-year-old performer has a rolodex full of Fortune 500 tycoons and entertainment moguls. Many of his closest friends in the rap community are also business moguls who have shown a penchant for buying and selling franchises. Rick Ross is a Wingstop franchisee, and Queen Latifah, Pharrell and Kanye West own Fatburger restaurants from the U.S. to China. They could certainly help Diddy narrow the gap if they chose to come onboard.

Diddy also has tremendous influence online. He presently has 8.8 million followers on Instagram and 13 million on Twitter and could tap into his fanbase with a crowdfunding campaign. Celebrities like Zach Braff have done it before to get their passion projects made. That said, while we’re not certain of the record for largest crowd-funded project, we’re pretty sure it’s substantially lower than $74 billion.

Odds Diddy buys an NFL team: 20/1

Now here’s a more reasonable proposition. Diddy has long been telling anyone who will listen that he wants to become the first African-American majority owner in the NFL. “I love sports, but I’m more of an owner type of guy,” he told Bloomberg TV way back in 2013. “A majority of players that are in the NFL are African-American, but there are no African-American owners. So that’s one of my dreams.”

It would be a first for the NFL, but it’s not without precedent in the world of professional sports. Robert Johnson became first African-American principal owner of a North American major-league sports franchise in 2002 when he bought the Charlotte Bobcats. Incidentally, Diddy also wouldn’t be the first African-American entertainer to invest in a pro team: Jay-Z bought a minority stake in the Brooklyn Nets in 2003, and Beyonce came close to buying the Houston Rockets before the team was sold to Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta.

It’s unclear which franchise Diddy covets most, but the Carolina Panthers could be up for sale soon given the advanced age and health issues of owner Jerry Richardson. The franchise has been valued at $2.3 billion and features a number of attractive assets, including former NFL MVP Cam Newton.

Diddy wil have to perform non-stop to be able to afford the NFL. Photo by Shamsuddin Muhammad (Wikimedia Commons) CC License

Odds Diddy launches a rival league: 75/1

Diddy may not have the capital needed to buy the NFL, but he could always start his own rival league. WWE boss Vince McMahon did just that back in 2001 when he partnered with NBC to create the Xtreme Football League. The XFL had some interesting wrinkles, including a frantic opening scramble and cheerleaders who looked like they would provide lap dances for an extra $5.

Though the XFL was shut down after its inaugural season, it does provide Diddy with a model he could pursue … or, at the very least, a model of what not to do.

He may also want to read up on the brief histories of the USFL and the World Football League, as well, both of which provided an alternative to the NFL. Trust us, reading up on the leagues is far better than watching any of their godawful games.

Odds the NFL implements anthem-standing rules: 2/3

The NFL does not presently have a rule prohibiting players from kneeling during the National Anthem, but that’s likely to change soon according to CNBC. The broadcaster managed to get hold of an internal memo from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in which he implied there was a plan in place to “move past this controversy.”

Details of Goodell’s plans are not yet known (his wife shut down her Twitter account before she could share them), but they will likely combine stiff penalties for non-compliant players with suggestions for how they can better address their concerns on various social issues. Goodell will reveal the plan to all NFL owners at next week’s league meeting.

Odds an NFL player is ever fined/suspended for kneeling: 1/3

There’s no point in having rules unless you enforce them, and it’s very possible a non-compliant player could be fined or suspended within the next three weeks. Before determining how to proceed, the NFL would be wise to review how the NBA has historically handled this sensitive issue.

The Association encountered a similar incident in 1996 when Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf staged his own silent protest by refusing to stand for the National Anthem. The league suspended him for one game and afterwards reached a compromise in which Abdul-Rauf had to stand for the anthem, but could do so with his eyes closed and his head bowed in prayer. It was far from an ideal outcome, but it allowed the NBA to save face and placate its fans.