The NFL is one of the most successful and recognizable sports leagues in the world. Yet, one question always gets asked around this topic — who owns the NFL brand? Let’s take a look at where ownership of the league’s brand lies and its structure.
Who Owns the NFL Brand?
The simple answer is that no one entity owns the NFL. Perhaps the best way to describe who owns the league is that the 32 NFL teams own the league. Therefore, the NFL and its brand lie in the hands of the NFL franchise owners.
A number of teams are owned by just one person, while others have dual ownership. Then, there are others with multiple family members owning percentages of the organization, or in the case of the Green Bay Packers, more than 350,000 stockholders. Green Bay is the only publicly owned franchise in the NFL, and Green Bay Packers, Inc. (the entity that owns the Packers) has been a non-profit corporation since August 1923.
Each Team Has Representation on the Executive Committee
Because no one entity owns the NFL, it is the executive committee that makes decisions regarding league policy changes. All 32 teams have a representative on the executive committee. For most teams, this is the owner of the franchise.
However, some teams have an official from the front office sit in on the committee. The Packers have a nominated president, Mark Murphy, who represents the franchise on the committee. For league changes, a three-quarters majority of members on the executive committee is a requirement.
MORE: Who Is the Longest-Running NFL Owner?
This is in contrast to other sports leagues that have seen one owner “run” the league. A prime example is the XFL, which Vince McMahon owned in both its first and second iterations. McMahon has now sold the XFL, but he had the ultimate say over the direction of the league as recently as the 2020 season.
Does the NFL Commissioner Own the League?
The person who is often considered to own the NFL is commissioner Roger Goodell. You may be less likely to boo if you find out he, in fact, does not.
Goodell does not have any direct say over the direction the NFL takes. Goodell represents the team owners and runs the NFL’s day-to-day operations.
However, major changes in league rules or structures cannot be made by Goodell himself. Therefore, for league changes to occur, the executive committee must ratify and/or amend with the aforementioned majority. And for all intents and purposes, the owners of the NFL constitute that executive committee.
What Does That Mean for the Players?
There is some belief that the NFL players themselves have a stake in ownership. However, that is not the case. The players have no representative on the executive committee. The NFLPA represents the players but does not have a “seat at the table.”
Some team owners may ask their players for opinions on league rules, but the owners ultimately have the say in how their franchise votes when it comes to official protocol.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement Is a Clear Demonstration of Who Owns the NFL
The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is a document that sets out the agreement between the NFL team owners and players on a number of issues. The most well-known is revenue sharing, but this document covers several areas.
MORE: Top 10 Highest-Paid NFL Head Coaches
However, it also demonstrates clearly who owns the NFL. If they don’t reach terms on an agreement, the team owners can choose to continue the season using replacement players. These “replacement games” would play under the NFL banner. On the other hand, a “breakaway league” by the players would have to be played under a different brand.
Who Are the Wealthiest NFL Owners?
Many people associate Jerry Jones as being the man who owns the NFL, as he has long been considered the richest owner in the NFL. However, Jones now sits fifth on the list of the richest NFL owners.
- Rob Walton, Denver Broncos
- Jody Allen and the Paul G. Allen Trust, Seattle Seahawks
- David Tepper, Carolina Panthers
- Hunt Family, Kansas City Chiefs
- Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys