By Ken Reed

When former Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford passed away in March, he left his heirs an NFL franchise valued at approximately $900 million in 2014 dollars, according to Forbes. He paid $4.5 million for the Detroit Lions in 1964.

On the field, the Lions won 310 games, lost 441 and tied 13 during the 50 years Ford owned the club. According to STATS, LLC., his .441 winning percentage with the Lions was the NFL’s worst among the NFL teams that existed in 1964, when Ford took over the franchise.

Clearly, as an operator of an NFL franchise, Ford failed miserably. But financially he succeeded wildly.

How could this happen in the United States, where capitalism reigns and the market weeds out inferior competitors?

The answer is simple: Professional sports in this country have nothing to do with capitalism. Our pro sports leagues are legal cartels. And in a legal cartel, the owner controls all the money and all the power. Cartel power is why NFL, MLB and NBA owners can hold cities hostage for sweetheart stadium and arena deals.

It’s also why owners like Ford can deliver losing products on the field, year after year — without any repercussions — as their franchises rise dramatically in value.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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