Magic Johnson makes history as Washington Commanders co-owner in 2023

Magic Johnson
Photo credit:

Magic Johnson — The world of sports is, like every entity across various industries, one that sees changes frequently. While most of the focus is set on players and coaching staff, a team’s ownership is just as important.

The changes or additions to ownerships is massive as it influences the direction a sports franchise would take. Sometimes it leads to something good, and other times it takes the franchise to a downward spiral. Regardless, ownerships are big news.

In the world of NFL, the industry was shaken up when entrepreneur and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson made history by becoming part-owner of the Washington Commanders. 

Read also: ChatGPT dipped in quality according to a new study

The news

Last Thursday, the NFL owners made a unanimous decision to approve the sale of the Washington Commanders to several billionaires led by Josh Harris, one of whom included Magic Johnson.

The massive group now has taken over the franchise from owner Daniel Snyder for a record $6.05 billion.

On Friday morning, 5-time NBA champion Magic Johnson expressed his excitement about the ownership, saying:

“It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

Magic Johnson makes history

The former Los Angeles Lakers champion has made history once again, this time in the NFL’s Washington Commanders. He has become the first Black co-owner within the franchise. With a new challenge in the sports world, Johnson acknowledged that he is aware that the team could use an internal face-lift.

“Well, first of all, you have to let the employees know that you respect them and it will be a safe place to work,” he explained.

“And we want you to have a winning attitude, too. These owners just can’t have a winning attitude. It’s got to trickle down to the employees. And then it’s got to trickle down to the coaches and trickle down to the players.”

“So if we respect them, they will respect us and go to the wall for us,” Johnson continued.

“And so – I’ve been in so many different sports teams … and we know how valuable these employees are, because they make it run every single day. And so we’re going to hire the best people. We already got a lot of great people. So this year it’s about listening, watching, and really learning.”

A team in peril

Under Daniel Snyder, the Washington Commanders had been a troubled franchise. Throughout his stint as the franchise owner, the Commanders had been embroiled in plenty of controversy.

Snyder was investigated by the NFL twice, both times for improper workplace conduct. On Thursday, one of the probes reached its conclusion.

Attorney Mary Jo White found that the Washington Commanders did not disclose revenue it was supposed to share with other franchises. Snyder was also found to have harassed a female employee.

As a result, Snyder was fined $60 million.

An emotional new start for Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson, 63, is no stranger to taking ownership of some major sports franchises. He has ownership stakes in the MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers, the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, and MLS’ Los Angeles FC. Outside of sports, Johnson owns the Magic Johnson Enterprises, which owned more than 100 Starbucks branches between 1998 and 2010. He later sold them, making $100 million.

The new Washington Commanders co-owner was emotional as he spoke about his business success, biting back tears.

“Breaking these barriers and going through these doors is important to me as a proud Black man,” he explained.

“I don’t know why God blessed me with these great opportunities. But I want to excel, not just for me and my family, but for all African Americans, making sure we can see ourselves in these seats. And I want people to know that we can do the job.”

Magic Johnson is eager to win at a franchise that holds three Super Bowls in its trophy cabinet, but the past three decades have gone by without much success. Instead, he is looking to change things with the rest of the ownership group. Johnson is looking to foster a winning culture.

“Without that, we can’t win on the field,” he said. “We want to do it the right way.”

Paving the way for others

Magic Johnson enters the role as a Black owner with Ariel Investments CEO Mellody Hobson and former Secretary of State Denver Condoleezza Rice, two members of the ownership group for the Denver Broncos. He is looking to become an example to other Black people and give them hope to elevate their careers and reach prominent positions within the organization.

“If we can excel at our roles, others will follow,” said Magic Johnson. “And I want them to be executives as well. I’m hoping that other owners will see that African Americans can do the job and give us opportunities.”