Who Has Owned An NFL Team The Longest?




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Throughout this article, you will learn about the NFL team owners who have held ownership for the longest period of time. We will discuss their names, the teams they own, and their contributions to the sport. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of the long-standing ownership in the NFL and the impact it has had on American football.

Who Has Owned An NFL Team The Longest?


If you’re a fan of the National Football League (NFL), you likely have a favorite team that you cheer for every season. But have you ever wondered who the owners of these iconic football franchises are? The NFL is comprised of 32 teams, each with their own unique ownership history. In this article, we will explore the history of NFL team ownership, the longest-tenured owners, the notable figures throughout the league’s history, and the future of team ownership in the NFL. So sit back, grab your favorite pigskin, and let’s dive into the fascinating world of NFL team ownership.

The History of NFL Teams

Formation of the NFL

The NFL was formed in 1920 as the American Professional Football Association (APFA), with ten teams from five states. Over the years, the league went through several name changes before settling on the National Football League in 1922. The league initially struggled financially, with teams folding and relocating frequently. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the NFL began to gain popularity and establish itself as a major professional sports league.

Early NFL Teams

Some of the earliest NFL teams are still in existence today, albeit with different names and locations. The Green Bay Packers, founded in 1919, are the oldest continuously-operating NFL team. They were a founding member of the APFA in 1920 and have won a record 13 NFL championships. Other early teams that have stood the test of time include the Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals, and New York Giants.

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Expansion of the NFL

As the NFL grew in popularity, so did the number of teams. Throughout its history, the league has undergone several expansion phases, welcoming new teams into the fold. Notable expansion teams include the Dallas Cowboys, who joined the NFL in 1960 and quickly became one of the most successful and recognizable franchises in the league. Other expansion teams that have made their mark on the NFL include the Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Carolina Panthers.

Ownership Changes Over the Years

The Evolution of Team Ownership

In the early years of the NFL, team ownership was often a family affair. The vast majority of teams were owned by individuals or groups of individuals who had a personal connection to the team. However, as the league grew, so did the financial requirements of owning a franchise. This led to an increase in corporate ownership, with companies and wealthy individuals purchasing teams.

Major Ownership Transitions

Throughout the history of the NFL, there have been several major ownership transitions that have made headlines. One such example is the transfer of ownership of the Pittsburgh Steelers from the Rooney family to billionaire businessman Stan Kroenke in 2020. This marked the end of a 50-year tenure for the Rooney family and highlighted the changing landscape of team ownership in the NFL.

Longest Tenured NFL Team Owners

Criteria for Longest Tenure

Determining the longest-tenured NFL team owners can be a challenging task, as ownership can be affected by various factors such as the sale of a team or the passing of an owner. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on the owners who have had the longest continuous ownership of their respective teams.

Top Longest Tenured NFL Owners

One of the longest-tenured owners in NFL history is Virginia Halas McCaskey, who has owned the Chicago Bears since 1983. McCaskey took over the team following the death of her father, George Halas, who was a founding member of the NFL and coached the Bears for over 40 years. Another notable long-tenured owner is Ralph Wilson Jr., who owned the Buffalo Bills from their inception in 1960 until his death in 2014.

Greatest Achievements of Longest Tenured Owners

The longest-tenured owners in the NFL have had significant impact on their respective teams and the league as a whole. Virginia Halas McCaskey has continued the legacy of her father, George Halas, by maintaining the Bears’ status as one of the most successful franchises in NFL history. Ralph Wilson Jr. guided the Bills to four consecutive Super Bowl appearances in the early 1990s, solidifying their place as one of the most respected teams in the league.

Who Has Owned An NFL Team The Longest?

Notable NFL Team Owners Throughout History

Influential Figures in NFL Ownership

Throughout the history of the NFL, there have been several notable owners who have left an indelible mark on the league. One such figure is Lamar Hunt, who founded the Kansas City Chiefs (then the Dallas Texans) and played a pivotal role in the development of the AFL-NFL merger, which eventually led to the creation of the Super Bowl. Another influential owner is Art Modell, who owned the Cleveland Browns and later moved the team to Baltimore, where they became the Ravens and won two Super Bowl titles.

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Impact of Notable Owners on the League

Notable owners like Lamar Hunt and Art Modell have not only shaped their respective teams but also had a significant impact on the league as a whole. Lamar Hunt’s vision for a championship game between the AFL and NFL paved the way for the Super Bowl, which has become one of the most-watched sporting events in the world. Art Modell’s relocation of the Browns to Baltimore not only revitalized a struggling franchise but also set the stage for the successful return of the Browns to Cleveland in 1999.

Ownership Succession Planning

Importance of Succession Planning

Succession planning is a crucial aspect of NFL team ownership. It ensures that there is a smooth transition of ownership when an owner passes away or decides to sell the team. Without proper succession planning, a team’s future can be uncertain, leading to instability and potential financial and competitive issues.

Challenges Faced in Ownership Succession

Ownership succession in the NFL can be a complex and challenging process. It involves navigating legal and financial considerations, as well as ensuring that the team remains in good hands. Family dynamics and conflicts can also complicate succession planning, as seen in the case of the Rooney family, who had to carefully navigate the transfer of ownership of the Pittsburgh Steelers to ensure the long-term success and stability of the franchise.

Successful Ownership Succession Stories

While ownership succession in the NFL can be challenging, there have been success stories where teams have seamlessly transitioned from one owner to the next. One such example is the New England Patriots, who underwent a smooth ownership transition from Victor Kiam to Robert Kraft in 1994. Under Kraft’s leadership, the Patriots have become one of the most successful and well-run franchises in NFL history, winning multiple Super Bowl titles.

Who Has Owned An NFL Team The Longest?

The Business Side of NFL Team Ownership

Revenue Generation

NFL team ownership is not just about the love of the game. It is also a lucrative business venture. The primary sources of revenue for NFL teams include TV and media rights, ticket sales, merchandise sales, and sponsorship deals. Successful owners understand the importance of maximizing revenue streams while also providing a winning product on the field.

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Salary Cap Management

One of the unique aspects of NFL team ownership is the salary cap, which limits the amount teams can spend on player salaries. Ownership must navigate this cap while also ensuring that they can field a competitive team. Effective salary cap management requires a balance between player contracts, team needs, and long-term financial sustainability.

Marketing and Branding

Successful NFL team owners understand the importance of marketing and branding in growing their fan base and generating revenue. This includes creating a strong brand identity, engaging with fans through social media and other platforms, and creating memorable experiences for fans both at games and through various events and initiatives.

Ethical Considerations in NFL Team Ownership

Owner Accountability

With great power comes great responsibility. NFL team owners have a duty to their fans, players, and the communities in which they operate. This includes being transparent and accountable in their decision-making, prioritizing the well-being of players and staff, and actively engaging in initiatives that promote equality, diversity, and social justice.

Social Responsibility Initiatives

Many NFL team owners have embraced their role in society by implementing social responsibility initiatives. This includes charitable work, community outreach programs, and initiatives focused on creating positive change in various areas such as education, health, and social equality. By engaging in these initiatives, owners can positively impact their communities and foster goodwill among fans.

Future of NFL Team Ownership

Emerging Trends in Ownership

The landscape of NFL team ownership is constantly evolving. One emerging trend is the increasing presence of female owners in the league. Notable examples include Virginia Halas McCaskey of the Chicago Bears, Kim Pegula of the Buffalo Bills, and Dee Haslam of the Cleveland Browns. This shift in ownership demographics is a positive step towards promoting diversity and inclusivity in the league.

Potential New Owners

As the NFL continues to grow in popularity and value, there is always the possibility of new owners joining the league. Potential new owners could come from various backgrounds, including sports and entertainment, technology, and finance. These individuals could bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to the league, further propelling the NFL into the future.

Ownership Expansion Plans

The NFL has expressed interest in expanding the number of teams in the league. Potential expansion cities include London, Mexico City, and Toronto, among others. This expansion would not only provide new ownership opportunities but also increase the global reach and fan base of the NFL. However, any expansion plans would require careful consideration and strategic decision-making by the league and its owners.


In conclusion, the NFL has a rich and diverse history of team ownership. From the early struggles of the league to the emergence of successful franchises, NFL team owners have played a vital role in shaping the league into what it is today. Whether it’s the longest-tenured owners who have maintained stability and success or the notable figures who have left a lasting impact on the league, team ownership in the NFL is a fascinating and ever-evolving aspect of the game. As the league looks to the future, new trends, potential owners, and expansion plans will continue to shape the landscape of NFL team ownership. So the next time you cheer on your favorite team, take a moment to appreciate the individuals behind the scenes who have dedicated their time, resources, and passion to the pursuit of football excellence.

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