Editor’s Note: Each holiday season DPB tries to give a little back to the sports that have given us so much (to write about). Last year it was offering to buy a Candlestick Park urinal off the SF Recreation & Parks Department. This year, well, we’re offering to buy the 49ers off the York family…and return them to The City.
At 4:14 p.m. EST Sunday, Dec. 13, the 49ers fell 24-10 to the Cleveland Browns. Getting beaten by the worst team in NFL history means they’re arguably the worst team in NFL history.
I had two choices:
- Renounce, for good, my fandom.
- Buy the team.
Since it’s too easy to give up, I decided buying the team would be a better option. That’s where you come in. I want to own it with everyone who also does not like giving up.
…But more on that in a second.
First a few things about the 49ers’ current ownership:
- The 49ers were purchased in 1977 for $13 million by Eddie DeBartolo Jr. DeBartolo’s father was a shopping mall magnate and junior took over the family business. At one point the DeBartolos claimed to own more than 2 billion square feet of former wetlands and meadows where hot dogs could be sold on a stick and little girls could get their ears pierced with fake diamond butterflies. As the head of a NFL team, DeBartolo Jr. quickly established a reputation for free-spending ways, loyalty to his players and hands-on ownership. This ushered in the most successful decade and a half for any franchise in NFL history and the 49ers won championships in 1981, 1984, 1988, 1989 and 1994.
- In 2000, DeBartolo testified against Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards in exchange for no jail time for failure to report a felony after he made a payment to the the governor of $400,000 in exchange for a riverboat casino license. As a result of the fracas, the NFL forced DeBartolo to relinquish control of the team to his sister, Denise DeBartolo-York.
- The team was run by DeBartolo-York and her husband John York, a former cancer research pathologist, until they turned the franchise over to their son Jed in 2008.
- Immediately Jed started to make plans to move the team out of San Francisco and helped build a $1.3-billion-dollar menagerie using public funds and Goldman Sachs money. In its first full year of operations, the stadium has earned a reputation for traffic jams lasting up to three hours, seat license owners forced into buying tickets selling for one-eighth their face value in the aftermarket, a backdrop which caters to corporate suits (and suites) over fan experience, a field which comes up in divot-sized chunks nearly every play and denizens of the South Bay still holding the note. Relocation combined with strange front office and player personnel decisions, a rash of retirements by marquee players and a nearly unwatchable product on the field have earned Jed York the reputation of greedy owner enemy no. 1.
- The San Francisco Giants’ ownership, which built a new waterfront stadium in the late-’90s, have brought a trio of World Series trophies to San Francisco using mostly home-grown talent. Better still, they did it all with private funds. As a result, the 49ers are no longer the team of record in San Francisco.
I do not believe the York family is capable of making good decisions when it comes to hiring the right front-office staff, coaching staff or signing the necessary personnel to restore one of the icons of professional sport. I can no longer tolerate the notion that being a San Francisco 49ers fan has been morphed into a completely transactional activity by the controlling family. I can no longer stand by and watch corporate greed and the interests of a few (by last count, three people plus a bunch of lawyers) act as a cancer eating away not only a gilded past but any hope for the future.
As a result I (we) are going to buy the 49ers.*
How to buy the 49ers? It can be done in three easy steps:
- Give the Yorks and offer they can’t refuse. Forbes earlier this year valued the 49ers at $2.7 billion. The highest-valued franchise in America is the the Dallas Cowboys whose estimated worth is $3.2 billion. The only sports team estimated to be worth more in the world is Real Madrid, valued at $3.4 billion. Offer the Yorks $3.5 billion to go back to Ohio, forever.
- $3.5 billion is a lot of money. Or is it? It would take approximately $10 from every man woman and child in America to buy the 49ers. So that’s where we’re going to start. One share of the 49ers is $10. If everyone here could pledge $10, America could own the 49ers free and clear. Of course, that’s not going to happen which is why I would also appeal to benevolent billionaires like Bill Gates (net worth $79 billion) Warren Buffett (net worth $67 billion) and fan/neighbor Mark Zuckerberg (net worth $40 billion). All three captains of industry have pledged to purge their entire fortunes in the name of making the world a better place. And what better place to start than the NFL…which is currently by all counts (crime, concussions, capitalism gone awry) the world’s worst place.
- While shares start at $10, each shareholder can pledge however much they want but any amount pledged will still only yield a single share for the holder. In essence, the transaction would be similar to the public ownership of the Green Bay Packers.
Once the 49ers are purchased:
The team would be run as a for-profit operation with a non-profit arm (more on that below) with emphasis on an egalitarian model for fans and players alike which would improve not only the product on the field but ultimately the community it serves.
Since I would be but a single shareholder, I would not wield a lot of power. However, I would make the following suggestions:
The board (unpaid) would be an ethnically, economically and age-diverse cross-section of Bay Area notables including: E-40, Jason Lytle, Marc Andreessen, Dr. Harry Edwards, Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice, Lowell Bergman, Peter Hartlaub, Mark Dowie, David V. Mitchell, Cecil Williams, Don Solem, George Lucas, Billie Joe Armstrong, Mitsunori Kusakabe, Chris Kayser and Gabriel Angelo.
In addition, a few pieces of advice to the board:
- Sell Levi’s Stadium back to the city of Santa Clara for $1 with a single contractual stipulation: That a food truck demolition derby will take place at halftime along with 10-cent beer night during the final 49ers home game there. Any damages/looting/liabilities to ensue will be the responsibility of the city of Santa Clara and the 49ers organization would be free and clear of the stadium and all financial obligations and implications forthwith.
- Bring the 49ers back to the City: Sign a 100-year lease with the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department (for $1) for the use of Kezar Stadium. In exchange, restore the seating capacity back to 50,000.
- Restore and refurbish the Cow Palace and surrounding lands: Ink a deal with the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Division of Fairs and Expositions for a 100-year lease (also for $1—notice a trend?) for the Cow Palace to serve as the 49ers’ new team HQ and practice facility in exchange for the property’s restoration.
- All tickets are available for sale day-of only and only for $10. Nobody will be able to line up before 6 a.m. on game day or hire a homeless person from the panhandle to act as line placeholders. All children under 15 are free. Hot dogs are $2. Beers are $5.
- Game day tickets are limited to one (1) per buyer. There will be no secondary market. The ticket purchased is your ticket. Each ticket customized and printed with a photo of the buyer on it along with the holder’s name and address. Ticket takers will scan the drivers’ licenses or IDs of the holder to ensure a match.
- All players will initially sign for the league minimum/one-year contracts and will earn the rest with merit. Each 49ers players’ performance is evaluated at the end of the season and bonuses will be allocated based on that year’s statistics. If a quarterback, for example, ends up third in the league numbers-wise, his bonus will equal the total compensation of the third-highest paid quarterback in the league. Team bonus incentives will also apply commensurate with a percentage of revenue generated from postseason play and merchandise sales up to the maximum allowable underneath the salary cap. Coaches and front-office personnel will also receive a similar bonus-based pay structure/contracts.
- Any chunk of TV contract money (every game will be a sell-out so there will be no chance of black-out) or NFL revenue sharing over the cost of operations will be allocated directly to the nonprofit arm of the 49ers community fund/endowment: The money will go directly to enriching the lives of those playing for the organization as well as those living in San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. The nonprofit will maintain focus on improving affordable housing, public transportation, renewable energy and public schools as well as helping curb poverty, homelessness and hunger…and, of course, becoming the NFL gold standard when it comes to the safety and protection of its players including taking the lead on research of brain-related diseases and disorders and offering guaranteed post-playing-days employment, healthcare for life and an aggressive retirement/pension program separate from the NFL/NFLPA’s.
Whether you can give $10 or $1 billion, every dollar counts. Remember, together we have the power to bring the 49ers back to San Francisco and restore the franchise to its rightful glory on the field as well as create a new template for a community-owned franchise which takes direct responsibility for putting the people it employs and entertains as well as the city it plays for—first.
*Please note: In the unlikely event our efforts to acquire the 49ers fall short, the money pledged here will be evenly split between the following local charities: Food Runners, Glide Memorial Church, Project Night Night and the San Francisco Community Land Trust. Ho Ho Ho and Happy Holidays from Death of the Press Box!