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To those of you who root for the Detroit Lions, the Oakland Raiders, the Chicago Cubs or any lovable underdog with no possible shot in hell of winning, I sympathize with you. I am, after all, a fan of the Baltimore Orioles.
In every professional sport these teams exist — teams that once had at least a modicum of prestige but have since been pulled limb from limb by owners who micro-manage, who know nothing about operating a sports organization, who insist that they can do a better job than the employees they hire for the very same tasks. I’m looking at you, Peter Angelos. I’m looking at you, Ted Lerner and Dana Snyder.
I bring up this list of tragically poor performing teams as of late because they embody a serious flaw in the structure of major league sports, a hole as large as the one in my heart when our solar system lost Pluto. I’m talking about a buyout clause, a contractual option that would allow leagues to buy teams back from terrible owners, individuals who are running storied franchises into the ground.
A buyout clause is an agreement between two parties that says if Party A meets certain conditions, Party B can force Party A’s exit for a certain price.
In professional sports, this would take the form of a contractual agreement between the league and an owner. If a team under-performs for a number of years and/or meets a number of elements on the “holy God you have a terrible team” list, the league buys the franchise back from the owner.
An example of elements from “the list” could include:
– If your baseball team hasn’t had a winning season in years (minimum of 10).
– If your football team loses 11 or more games in six straight seasons.
– If you make the championship game and then make zero playoff appearances for the following season (minimum of 7).
Since franchised teams are part of a larger umbrella organization, the league in which a team plays controls the existence of the team. The National Football League would never remove the Oakland Raiders from the NFL but they should absolutely be able to send the Raiders’ miserable owner Al Davis on his way after years of destroying a once-menacing football machine.
Implementing buyout clauses would be a tricky situation because of the potential pandemonium it could cause. At the end of the day, the intention is to make these terrible teams better. An essential part of the agreement between leagues and owners has to be that the new ownership cannot move the team to another city for a certain period of time.
The timeline would also need to coincide with a few elements, at the very least, of the “terrible team” list mentioned before. Enforcing this time line would prevent owners from buying a team in Milwaukee and moving them the next year to San Jose. Doing so would destroy the very purpose behind buyout clauses: to make the team and the fans happier.
The ultimate goal is to get teams back into fighting shape in the cities that love them, not uproot the sports staples of a city.
I care deeply about buyout clauses because, as a fan of an abysmal team, I’m frustrated, and I have been for the better part of a decade. It is in the leagues’ best interests to give my team, and the other teams in the same situation a fighting chance instead of waiting for owners to either die or reluctantly sell a team away.
To all of the awful owners in the sports word: Running a sports team is a business, not a sandbox. Grow up and help make some intelligent decisions (Read: Sell. Your. Team.).
Contact Social Media Outreach Editor Zack Shapiro at Zashapiro@colorado.edu.