Denver Broncos could become first NFL team with black owner, as new bidder emerges

Chair of the Board of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Robert F. Smith, speaks at the 2018 Ripple of Hope Gala in New York City. Wednesday, December 12, 2018
Chair of the Board of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Robert F. Smith, speaks at the 2018 Ripple of Hope Gala in New York City. Wednesday, December 12, 2018 Ripple Of Hope Awards

The Denver Broncos are in the search for a new owner, and as John Elway, Peyton Manning and Jeff Bezos are names that have all been floated and that have garnered attention, a new bidder has emerged and is gaining steam.

Robert F. Smith, a billionaire investor and CEO, has seemingly entered the bidding war, according to A.J. Perez of Front Office Sports. If Smith were to eventually purchase the team, he would become the first black owner in NFL history.

Smith is a native of Denver, who was born in 1962. According to a New York Times article, Smith’s mother carried him with her when he was a baby, during Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech during his March on Washington.

After attending East High School in Denver, Smith attended Cornell, before entering the workforce as a chemical engineer, where he designed multiple different patents. In 1994 he got into investment banking and quickly made a name for himself. Just a few years later, in 2000, Smith opened up his own private equity and venture capital firm, Vista Equity Partners, which is now the fourth-largest enterprise software company in the world (behind only Microsoft, Oracle and SAP), according to PCMag.

Smith is now worth $6.7 billion dollars, according to Forbes, making him the wealthiest black man in America, and making him one of the very few people with pockets deep enough to be able to personally afford the Broncos.

This should excite Broncos Country, as Smith appears to fit the bill of having just about everything Broncos fans should want in a new owner.

First, he’s a Denver native, which makes it pretty impossible to see him relocating the team. The Broncos relocating is highly unlikely as is, but Smith buying the team would remove whatever minor concerns persist.

Second, his immensely deep pockets and additional revenue streams means that he wouldn’t have to make the Broncos profitable and that he would have the ability to sign big checks to help Denver compete. As crazy as it sounds, there are NFL owners that have little revenue outside their NFL team, and that necessity to keep the franchise’s books in the black can hamstring its ability to compete.

Third, he’s a self-made multi-billionaire, and that intangible seems to speak to someone who is used to having to build something great, as opposed to someone who was just handed something great — like a certain celebrity CEO of a popular electric car manufacturer.

Fourth, speaking of celebrity, Smith isn’t one. It would be hard to fault you if this was your first time hearing of him. Whereas other potential candidates — Bezos, Manning and Elway — all have public-facing personas and a level of celebrity that could lead to them being a distraction, a la Jerry Jones, the odds of that happening with Smith feel incredibly slim.

Fifth, if a billionaire like Bezos buys the Denver Broncos, Broncos Country will have to confront the fact that they’re rooting for a team owned by someone who faced as many allegations of human rights violations as Bezos. Even if that notion doesn’t upset you, the amount at which it is brought up in sports media and by rival fans in an effort to troll would likely detract from one’s fan experience.

Smith does have the red flag of having a nasty tax evasion scandal in his past, but as far as multi-billionaires acting immorally goes, that’s nothing. That being his only moral infraction makes him a patron saint among a pack of ravenous tiger sharks.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Smith could continue Bowlen’s legacy of being an innovator in the NFL. Bowlen changed the way the game was broadcasted and was an advocate for social progress throughout his ownership tenure. Smith could continue to push forward innovation in the league, with a strong tech background. Plus, as he would be the league’s only black owner, he would also be in a unique and exciting position to promote social change and justice inside the world of football.

All-in-all, Smith looks the part to be the man to carry the torch from the Bowlen family.

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