More female ownership evens the playing field

by Grace Grabowski, Sports Reporter
photo courtesy of the Lakers

Across the four major professional sports leagues, all of which involve male athletes — the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL), National Hockey League (NHL) and Major League Baseball (MLB) — there are 123 different teams. Of the 123 teams, only 13 are owned by a woman.

Typically, team owners represent their team to the league, hire high level employees and allocate funds for the arena’s upkeep and to pay the staff, players and additional personnel. 

Many sports fans are not bothered by such little female representation among owners within these major sports leagues. They argue that the gender of a team’s owner does not matter, and they are right — the most qualified person for the job should earn the owner role, regardless of their gender. If a woman can do the job just as well or even better than a male candidate, then she deserves to be considered for the job in the same way.

Unfortunately, data suggests that women are rarely given the opportunity to become owners of professional sports teams. From 2000 to 2018, out of the 67 professional sports teams that were sold to new owners, just one was sold to a woman.

As the major professional sports mainly focus on male athletes and coaches, just seeing female figures in this setting can help spark young girls’ interest in both sport and business careers. Additionally, increased numbers of female team owners will serve as an inspiration in the currently male-dominated field and can give younger generations powerful female role models.

Take Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeanie Buss as an example. When her father passed away in 2013, he divided his majority share in the Lakers among his children. Buss was named president and owner of the team, yet it was her brother who was in charge of all basketball operations. Later on, in a court case with her family in March 2017, Buss’ two brothers attempted to exclude her from a Lakers ownership board meeting. If they had been successful, Buss would have no longer been a board director for the team, and would have become ineligible to be the majority owner. 

After winning the suit, Buss became the majority owner. She made many adjustments that dramatically increased the Lakers’ success, including hiring Rob Pelinka as the general manager, who then hired Frank Vogel as head coach and signed LeBron James.

In 2020, Jeanie Buss became the first female owner to win an NBA championship, proving to the world that when given the chance, women are just as capable of owning a successful NBA team as men. Women deserve an equal opportunity to own and lead these professional sports teams. 

Buss and the 12 other female owners serve as role models for young girls who grow up watching sports. They lead as examples of how women can become successful in professional sports in ways other than being players.

Young girls who grow up watching sports rarely see themselves represented by the players, and although viewership of women’s sports has increased over the past few years, women’s sports are still not as popular as men’s sports. Not only do female owners overcome stereotypes by taking leading positions in a male dominated industry, they also break down barriers and help pave the way and create opportunities for future generations of girls.