If you were hoping that the NFL would stick to its promise to try to increase diversity in its group of owners, I have some bad news. The winning bid for the Denver Broncos was made by Rob Walton, the eldest of Walton’s children and part of the Walmart dynasty.
The $ 4.5 billion offer is almost guaranteed to be accepted by the league, signed by the owners, and guarantees that another old, white male billionaire will join the ranks of the team’s owner. The underpinning of this, outside of the NFL, is that the Walton family now has an almost incomparable suffocating grip on sports in Denver. While it’s not uncommon for an owner to have multiple teams in the same market, it’s strange to dominate a family like Walton in Colorado.
Stan Kronke married the family through Anne Walton and built a sports empire fueled by Walton’s money. Rob himself is the direct heir to the family fortune. Between the three, Walton and Kronkes are ready to control almost everything in the state of Colorado when it comes to professional sports.
If Rob’s Broncos sale is finalized, here’s what the state’s professional sports landscape looks like now:
- Colorado Avalanche (NHL): Owned by Ann Walton Kronke
- Denver Broncos (NFL): Owned by Rob Walton
- Colorado Mammoth (NLL): Owned by Stan Kronke
- Denver Nuggets (NBA): Owned by Ann Walton Kronke
- Colorado Rapids (MLS): Owned by Stan Kronke
One family, five teams. The only remaining professional sports franchise in the state that is not owned by part of the Walton family are the Colorado Rockies, but don’t worry – there is speculation. As early as 2021, the Denver Post proposed the idea of selling the Rockies, and the list of potential owners is … you guessed it, Stan Kronke.
Throughout the state’s sporting landscape, no one thought to talk and say, “Maybe it’s not great to give a family so much power in a big market?” That’s before we get to how weird Rob Walton owns the Broncos while his cousin’s husband owns Rams. The truth is that no one cares. The sports teams that sell are billionaires who trade chips with other billionaires so they can take their money and do other billionaire things.
The real question is why no one in the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS and MLL has thought of protecting fans from a scenario in which the Walton family could choose to drastically raise ticket prices or take advantage of sports in the area to harm fans – and there will be no reasonable competition in the market. There is no alternative to promoting competition. And before you think this will never happen, think about the shared DNA of the people involved.
It is important to discuss this because fans deserve to know who their owners are and to understand their motivation. We deify billionaires as capitalist geniuses in America, without caring about the ethics of the game.
When I first tried to become a writer, writing at night and on weekends, my day job was working for a mid-level clothing company. Our main seller: socks. My role was a specialist in business-to-business (B2B) accounts, dealing with smaller regional department stores and shoe stores. Much of my job was to provide bad news, and it was largely due to Walmart.
I remember that one of our most popular sellers at the time was white athletic ankle socks, which came in a pack of six. This will cost the company approximately $ 2.49 per unit landed in China. This is the total price for us, including transport. We would sell to a small retailer for $ 3.69, with an MSRP of $ 5.99. As you can guess, Walmart pays less for these socks – volume does that in every business. Walmart received the same package for $ 2.99 from us. This volume comes with a price: business relations are completely one-sided.
The Walmart buyer told the accountant who handled them that they would not pay more than $ 2.99 for the socks. They also wanted our company to make a group of seven pairs for them. Where they went from paying $ 2.99 for six pairs, they now wanted to pay $ 2.74 for seven pairs. I don’t know the exact number, but I was told that even on a large scale, that would mean clearing one nickel for every group sold to Walmart. Obviously, this is an absurdly small margin that no business should agree with, but in the world of clothing, you can’t upset Walmart. The risk of them being withdrawn was too great, even with a five-cent profit per unit. Returning to Walmart after it was withdrawn was almost impossible, and the company was convinced that having the product in their stores was a profit-sharing mind to stimulate marketing.
Due to this move, layoffs occurred. In an attempt to stop the bleeding, we had to make up for the colossal shortage somewhere. Here I enter the battle again. I was instructed to call all my clients and tell them that costs are rising for everything – up to 30 percent in some cases. They had to pay for Walmart’s greed.
I was explicitly told not to mention Walmart, to pretend to be stupid if someone asked about their price, and if someone insisted on an explanation, to tell him “the cost of production has increased”, which I knew was a lie. The bigger stores did well. They were used to the price movement and didn’t care much. For small shoe stores, this was a big deal. The socks had a great profit margin for them and didn’t go out of style and create dead stocks like shoes, so they were extremely upset.
After a week of these calls, I was reprimanded for not pulling the company line. I refused to lie to the small shops that pressed me, and came up with my own answer to get around the “business conditions have changed.” Two weeks later, the company apologized for firing me, saying “my focus was split” and that “I looked distracted” because I told my manager months earlier that I was a sports blogger at night and on the weekends. I later learned that this was because several of my customers intuitively intuitively understood correctly about my line “business conditions have changed” and asked why Walmart is able to charge the same price for its seven-pair package as they did by six pairs if the price of the goods increased. There was no answer.
So, just as Walmart managed to run a multimillion-dollar clothing company and fuck the little boy through a proxy, so the family behind that corporation is now in charge of sports in Denver. I’m not saying the same practices will take place in Denver, and I honestly don’t know what Walton and Kronke have to do with the company these days – but there is a possibility. We deserve to know the business practices of those who buy our teams and who have so much power.
There is absolutely nothing good about the fact that every team in a city is owned by one family. Such consolidation ultimately only hurts the little boy, and in this regard the fans are the little boy.