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Happy Owners, Lebron James, and the Charlotte Hornets

Across the NFL, NBA, and MLB, sports owners are in full peacock mode. Strutting. Proud. Bruce Sherman, the Miami Marlins Owner, reportedly sought a new president of baseball above Kim Ng’s position despite the team’s recent success of making the playoffs. Ng declined the Marlins’ option. Sherman defended his reasoning by citing the team’s need for player development and drafting abilities.[1] After five and ½ years, Sherman is making it publicly known that he is the face of the Marlins instead of Derek Jeter or Kim Ng. In the NFL, David Tepper, the Carolina Panthers Owner, continues to be an active new owner in his first 5 years. First, Tepper hired college football coach, Matt Rhule, and then fired him after less than three seasons. Tepper’s new head coaching hire, Frank Reich, has the Panthers winless at 0-5. After Reich’s multiple “not fun” meetings with Tepper, Reich gave away his play-calling duties to offensive coordinator, Thomas Brown.[2] Clearly, Reich’s decision was an attempt to appease Tepper. As new owners, Sherman and Tepper are showing everyone who’s in charge.

In Dallas, the owners are happy. Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks Owner, took his team to Abu Dhabi to play a preseason game with the future hopes of acquiring sovereign wealth investment similar to the deal struck by Ted Leonsis, Owner of the Washington Wizards, Capitals, and Mystics.[3] Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys Owner, loves the “tush push” play so much that it was not eliminated in the last owner’s meeting.[4] The safety issue of the ‘tush push’ play and the moral concern of sports washing or image laundering seem to escape the minds of Dallas owners.

Of course, no owner is happier than Jody Allen, the Portland Trailblazers Owner. In early September prior to trading Damian Lillard, Allen declared, “We really need to move on. We’ve got great young talent. We’re not like other rebuilding teams who don’t have a strong core of young players. It’s time to turn the page” from Damian Lillard.[5] Not only did the Portland Blazers receive a hull of players and draft picks, but they sent Lillard to a better winning situation in the Milwaukee Bucks than the Miami Heat. By General Manager, Joe Cronin, ignoring Lillard’s trade request to be only sent to the Heat, Hankins made a better winning and career decision for Lillard’s own legacy than Lillard desired. Surely, NBA front offices will cite the Lillard trade to players like James Harden who make trade requests.

The Philadelphia 76ers and new Washington Commanders Owner, Josh Harris, put his foot down by refusing to give James Harden a long-term deal; instead, Harris wants James Harden to play on a 1-year deal or receive significant trade compensation.[6] Without a long-term deal, Harden wants to play for Steve Ballmer, Owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. Recently, Ballmer celebrated the start of construction on his new Clippers stadium with 1,500 toilets and is reportedly refusing to trade Terance Mann to the Sixers for Harden.[7] Harris and Balmer are in an old-fashioned standoff with the prize of a playoff absentee player in Harden.

And how are owners dealing with domestic violence problems? They are benefiting from it. Tilman Fertitta, the Houston Rockets Owner, first banned Kevin Porter Jr from the facility for his recent charges of second-degree assault, third-degree assault, and felony strangulation. After Porter’s ex-girlfriend defended Porter and the Manhattan prosecutors dropped the second-degree assault charge, Fertitta turned a tragedy into a trade positive by sending Porter, a 2027 second-round pick, and a 2028 second-round pick to Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. Clayton Bennett, the Oklahoma City Thunder Owner, will add these picks to his already large pile and waive Porter. Instead of speaking on the problem of domestic violence or even making a half-hearted attempt at donating money to a domestic violence organization, Fertitta and Bennett said nothing and made their teams better.

Charlotte Hornets

This leads to the new owners of the Charlotte Hornets, Rick Schnall and Gabe Plotkin. What will their strategy be with Miles Bridges who recently violated the protection order from his 2022 felony domestic violence charges?

Will they follow Sherman and Tepper and show the NBA who is in charge? Will they keep Bridges and side with Cuban and Jones choosing profit and talent over safety and morality? Will they merely “move on” from Bridges? Will they stand pat and wait like Harris and Ballmer? Or use him as a trade piece like Fertitta and Bennitt?

Legally, the ownership relationship is unique between Schnall and Plotkin because they have a Rotating Ownership:

“Plotkin and Schnall will serve as Co-Chairman of Hornets Sports & Entertainment and will rotate the team’s governorship every five years, beginning with Schnall.”[8]

Surely, Schnall and Plotkin will want to reach a consensus as new owners dealing with their first big problem. However, Schnall has final decision-making power. This is important for the NBA because The NBA requires one voice, or one owner who speaks for the entire team. The one-voice theory is seen in constitutional law. In the three branches of government, there is only one branch that speaks to the international world, the executive branch. One person represents America and speaks for America when America must speak to the international world. How will Schnall speak? Schnall has options, but this is his first test in figuring out his own voice knowing that it also has a five-year time limit.

Lebron James

Why should Lebron James care about any of this? The Charlotte Hornets Rotational Ownership Model offers a unique blueprint for James to own a team in Las Vegas. Last year, James officially became a billionaire.[9] He is also involved in the ownership group with Fenway Sports Group, Owners of the Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Liverpool of the Premier League. However, the expansion fee alone is reportedly $2.5 billion plus all of the other expenses required to own a team. [10] Plus, to be an owner, you must personally put in a certain amount of money. James’ competition is Tim Leiweke, CEO of the Oak View Group, who has budgeted $10 billion for a basketball arena, hotel, gaming, and entertainment district in the Las Vegas area. Due to the rising costs and steep competition, James should be open to a Rotational Ownership Contract with either Fenway Sports Group or the Oak View Group.

John Camacho is a graduate of South Texas College of Law where he earned a J.D. and a graduate of the University of Missouri, St. Louis where he received a M.A. in Philosophy. He is also a Co-Founder of The Moral Questions of Sports. He can be reached via Instagram, @themoralquestionsofsports.


[1] See Barry Jackson’s Miami Herald article, “One driving factor in Marlins’ decision with Ng. And a look at how her trades worked out.” [2] See Alex Zietlow’s Charlotte Observer article, “Carolina Panthers Frank Reich says owner David Tepper won’t ‘sit idly by.’” [3] See Ken Maguire’s The Associated Press article, “Mavs and Timberwolves play in Abu Dhabi as Gulf region’s influence with the NBA grows” problms/nba/mavs-and-timberwolves-play-in-abu-dhabi-as-gulf-regions-influence-with-the-nba-grows-2/3354856/ [4] See Rob Maaddi’s FOX Sports article, “NFL explores ban on hip drop tackle, considers ‘tush push’ rule change for safety” [5] See Ben Golliver’s The Washington Post article, “The Blazers waved goodbye to Damian Lillard. Now what?” [6] See Shams Charania and The Athletic Staff article, “James Harden tells NBA investigators Daryl Morey said he’d trade guard ‘quickly’ after opt in: Sources.” [7][7] See Kyle Neubeck Philly Voice article, “In new interview, James Harden addresses his future and star trade rumors.” [8] See NBA article, “Group Led By Gabe Plotkin and Rick Schnall Finalizes Purchase of Majority Stake in Charlotte Hornets from Michael Jordan” [9] See Chase Petrson-Withorn’s article, “Lebron James is a Billionaire” [10]See Callie Lawson-Freeman’s article, “Lebron James wants Las Vegas NBA team. So does Shaquille O’Neal, who doesn’t want to ‘partner up.’

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