Wanna buy a football team? Got $1.9 billion laying around? That’s what it’ll set you back to own the Pittsburgh Steelers. And the crazy thing is, that’s for a middle of the pack team according to Forbes Magazine.
Forbes released their annual valuation of NFL franchises and your Steelers came in 13th of the league’s 32 teams in terms of valuation. Dallas, New England and the Racial Slurs were the top three for those wondering. I can see Dallas and Washington because of their fanbases and (in Dallas’s case) their stadium deals but New England? I don’t get that at all. In the 90s, there was an actual fear the Pats were gonna move to St. Louis because half their home games didn’t even meet the league’s idiotic blackout rules. Granted that was in their old stadium but it’s not like football is a sport ingrained in the culture.
When you hear “Friday Night Lights” you think Texas or Western Pa. Football strongholds with a long tradition of pigskin excellence. You don’t think of Massachusetts. They care about baseball and hockey, football’s only a fad as long as they’re winning. Once the Belichick/Brady era of
cheating dominance is over, you watch the fans jump ship.
Anyway, the Steelers valuation is still a pretty nice chunk of change for the Rooney family. Especially considering Art Rooney bought into the NFL for a paltry $2500 back in 1933. There’s a great urban legend that the Chief used his race track winnings to write the check but unfortunately that’s a myth. NFL Films produced a great documentary on the history of the franchise some years back (it’s available on DVD) and his son Dan Rooney put that to rest by explaining in the early days attendance was bad and football wasn’t popular so the team lost money. A lot of money. In order to keep the franchise afloat, the Chief would use his winnings at the track in order to make payroll. Some where along the line those stories became conflated into “Art Rooney won big on horses and bought an NFL team with his winnings.”
It’s been an interesting last several years for the Rooneys. The sons used to share the team equally as per their father’s will but the NFL came up with some goofy rule that one owner must control 30% of the team so Dan and his meddlesome son Art II bought out some of the other family members. They also sold a small chunk to some outside investors, one of whom was current Browns owner Jimmy Haslam. A prominent LA movie producer – the guy who brought the Batman movie to Heinz Field – is a diehard Steeler fan and offered to buy the team outright a few years back but the Rooneys turned him down.
Art II seems to have football in his blood like his father and grandfather before him. I imagine the team will stay in the family at least through his lifetime. I’m not sure how his kids feel – then again come 20-25 years from now, the team could conceivably worth so many billions of dollars that even if they feel duty bound to their family name not selling it would be utter insanity. Hopefully, that day doesn’t come for a good long time. Not sure what a Rooney-less Steelers would look like but it’s not something I’m all too eager to find out.