Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Sell the Clippers to the people

By Newt Gingrich
updated 10:12 PM EDT, Fri May 2, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Billionaires are reported to be interested in buying L.A. Clippers if team put up for sale
  • Newt Gingrich: The team should be sold as a nonprofit to the fans, like Green Bay Packers
  • He says sports teams are public in every way except their ownership
  • Gingrich: Public builds many stadiums, provides services, has big interest in teams

Editor's note: Newt Gingrich is a co-host of CNN's "Crossfire," which airs at 6:30 p.m. ET weekdays, and author of a new book, "Breakout: Pioneers of the Future, Prison Guards of the Past, and the Epic Battle That Will Decide America's Fate." A former speaker of the House, he was a candidate in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- Even before the NBA announced it was banning Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the league for life, sports fans had begun speculating about which billionaire would swoop in to buy the team.

Rumors are swirling about the possible interest of "Magic" Johnson, Sean "Diddy" Combs and Oscar De La Hoya, each potential celebrity owner no doubt more popular than the incumbent. Or perhaps, it is said, a group of virtuous billionaires, the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Larry Ellison and David Geffen, will charitably unite to rescue the franchise for the City of Angels.

Newt Gingrich
Newt Gingrich

Here instead is my modest proposal: Sell the team to the people, to thousands of fans themselves, as shareholders.

Then the Clippers would be owned not by a single incredibly wealthy patron whom we might admire or might detest, but by Americans of all races, ethnicities, religions, ages and backgrounds.

As a loyal fan of the Green Bay Packers (disclosure: My wife, Callista, and I own a single Packers share and our daughter Kathy and son-in-law Paul each have one, too), I have a particular attachment to this model of ownership for professional sports teams.

Jones: Racism extends beyond Sterling
Celebrities lining up to buy Clippers
What if Sterling fights Clippers sale?
The NBA's suspension and $2.5-million fine for Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling sent shockwaves through the sports world, but it's not the first time a league has cracked down on a team owner. The NBA's suspension and $2.5-million fine for Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling sent shockwaves through the sports world, but it's not the first time a league has cracked down on a team owner.
Team owners behaving badly
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
>
>>
Team owners behaving badly Team owners behaving badly

There is something strange about the prevailing model of teams as the ultimate billionaire's toy.

That's because a professional sports team often seems like a public institution. Its logo adorns every head on the street. The jerseys of its players are sold on every corner, its apparel in every airport gift store.

The mayor and the governor make frequent reference to its fortunes in their public appearances. They parade in ceremoniously to throw out the first pitch or to sit in judgment on the sidelines.

And the people, for their part, are outraged when the team doesn't perform well; they demand management changes as if management requires the consent of the entertained. And perhaps the people do have some claim: As taxpayers, they lavish financial assistance upon their team, pouring resources into public safety for the games and constructing the opulent stadiums their champions deserve. Because it is, after all, the people's team.

It is their team -- the fans' team -- in every regard except the one that matters. At the bottom of it all, it is really the billionaire's team -- an amateur, an enthusiast, whose whims, finances, prejudices and personal foibles can hold outsize influence on the fortunes of his or her franchise.

Clippers fans were reminded of that fact rather crudely this week. What better response than to fix it once and for all, by selling the team straight to the fans, as a not-for-profit like the Packers, with a board of directors, and a strong general manager and president? The right thing to do, I think, is to give it to the people. Green Bay, not billionaires, is the model.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Patrick Cronin and Kelley Sayler say the world is seeing nonstate groups such as Ukraine's rebels wielding more power to do harm than ever before
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ukraine ambassador Olexander Motsyk places blame for the MH17 tragedy squarely at the door of Russia
updated 7:42 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 2:53 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Les Abend says, with rockets flying over Tel Aviv and missiles shooting down MH17 over Ukraine, a commercial pilot's pre-flight checklist just got much more complicated
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Mark Kramer says Russia and its proxies have a history of shooting down civilian aircraft, often with few repercussions
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Gerard Jacobs says grieving families and nations need the comfort of traditional rituals to honor the remains of loved ones, particularly in a mass disaster
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
updated 8:05 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
LZ Granderson says Ronald Reagan went horseback riding and took a vacation after the Korean Air Crash of 1983. So why does the GOP keep airbrushing history to bash Obama?
updated 9:38 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Errol Louis says the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD has its roots in the "broken windows" police strategy from the crime-ridden '80s.
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
updated 7:27 AM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is right to immediately send 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the border children crisis.
updated 9:56 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
updated 4:15 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
updated 11:35 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Tue July 22, 2014
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
updated 8:27 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
updated 7:57 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
updated 10:17 AM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
updated 12:42 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
updated 9:50 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
updated 11:07 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
updated 1:55 PM EDT, Sun July 20, 2014
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
updated 3:53 PM EDT, Mon July 21, 2014
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
updated 3:33 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
updated 6:11 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
updated 3:14 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
updated 8:06 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
updated 8:14 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
updated 4:16 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
updated 12:01 PM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
updated 10:04 AM EDT, Fri July 18, 2014
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Thu July 24, 2014
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
updated 2:04 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
updated 11:18 AM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
updated 9:24 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT