The Denver Broncos created a stir when, first, investments executive Mellody Hobson and, second, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice joined the team’s new ownership group.
They made history by being the first Black women to be involved in the ownership of an NFL team.
Overall, it’s a group led by the Walton and Penner families, both of whom accumulated wealth through family ties to Walmart, the store that sells everything.
That’s so American. So is the record $4.65 billion price for the Broncos.
On the surface, Hobson and Rice represent the new NFL, which is infusing diversity into its product on the executive and business end. Hobson is co-chief executive of Ariel Investments and the board chair of Starbucks Corp. She’s also the wife of “Star Wars” movie mogul George Lucas.
Rice is embedded with the word “first” — first Black woman national security adviser, first Black female secretary of state, expert on Russia, Stanford professor, one of the first female members of golf’s famous Augusta National Club. She’s also a director of the Hoover Institution at Stanford, a conservative think tank. She was on the College Football Playoff selection committee since its beginning in 2013.
Plus, Rice’s love for the NFL is well-documented.
“Her unique experience and extraordinary judgment will be a great benefit to our group and the Broncos’ organization,” Rob Walton, eldest son of Walmart founder Sam Walton and speaking on behalf of the group, said in a statement.
In a packed ballroom at the annual National Book Festival in 2017 in Washington, Rice said: “My role models, and indeed my mentors, were White men. They were old White men. Those were the people who dominated my field. And so I always say to my students now, ‘Your mentors just have to be people who believe in you and who see things in you that you don’t necessarily see in yourself.’”
That meant Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser under presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush; George Shultz, secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan; and college professor Josef Korbel.
But Rice’s journey started at the University of Denver under the tutelage of Korbel, the late Madeleine Albright’s father. At the NBF, Rice recalled that she was sort of wandering aimlessly with no college major.
Then, “I took a class in international politics. It was taught by a man named Josef Korbel. And all of a sudden, I knew what I wanted to be.
“I wanted to study all things Soviet, East European, diplomacy, international. And that kicked me then into international politics as a major and, ultimately, as a degree.”
Which strikes a chord.
Rice didn’t wait for a Black woman as a mentor during her impressionable times. Shultz, for instance, was 34 years older than Rice. She showed that mentors don’t necessarily have to be of a certain race or gender or age or creed. The same can be applied to her NFL situation.
The ownership stakes held by Hobson and Rice in the Broncos haven’t been made public. But it hasn’t stopped the criticism. As sports journalist Keith Reed wrote for “The Root,” a Black-oriented website: “Rice lived the most public parts of her life in the inner circle of an administration that was deeply unpopular among Black voters … ”
That would be President George W. Bush.
Just read some comments, presumably from Black readers:
—“… It does seem kind of odd that being ‘chair of the board’ for a company facing literally hundreds of unfair labor practice complaints isn’t (sic) somehow points against Hobson.”
—“Her incorrect application of Cold War paradigms on the situation in the Middle East helped cause hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths. She can (expletive) right off to jail.”
—“Let’s not forget her shopping spree for expensive shoes at Ferragamo on 5th Ave., NY, while our people were drowning all over New Orleans during Katrina. To hell with Condi Rice!”
—“Hmm. Very interesting the kind of Black women the system seem (sic) to be rewarding & promoting lately — they fit a particular profile. Be careful what we ask for!”
The additions of Hobson and Rice occurred as the NFL aims to increase the diversity of the league’s highest ranks as it faces a lawsuit from Brian Flores, an Afro-Latino former head coach who accused the league and its teams of discriminating against him and other Black head-coaching candidates.
So, are Hobson and Rice mere chess-piece pawns in another type of NFL game — public relations?