Don't get overly excited about Donald Trump's possible interest in Buffalo Bills
Donald Trump, as he's wont to do, caused a media stir today.
Trump told WBEN 930-AM he might be interested in purchasing the Buffalo Bills to keep the team in Western New York.
"It would be catastrophic, in my opinion, if Buffalo lost the Buffalo Bills," Trump said.
Any such talk is greeted with enthusiasm here. Bills fans for decades have been nervous about the team someday leaving town. The possibility became even more palpable last week, when 95-year-old Bills owner Ralph Wilson died.
When I spoke with Trump last week about Jim Kelly, the billionaire developer and entertainer declined, out of respect for Wilson, whose funeral was two days away, to chat about any potential interest he might have in buying the Bills.
Trump felt comfortable enough to talk about it today with multiple news outlets. But left unaddressed were solutions to two notable problems Trump would face if he decided to go forward with a purchase.
Forbes magazine estimates Trump is worth $3.9 billion, more than Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones ($3.1 billion) and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft ($3 billion).
Only a handful is estimated to be worth more than Trump: Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen ($10.9 billion), St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke ($5.6 billion), Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross ($5.5 billion), Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer ($4.5 billion) and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan ($4.3 billion).
Money alone, however, won't get Trump into the fraternity.
NFL ownership is bound by strict business rules and requires approval of the group.
Trump has issues on both fronts.
NFL owners cannot have any gambling interests, and Trump owns a pair of Atlantic City casinos, the Trump Taj Mahal and the Trump Plaza.
From the NFL's gambling policy:
NFL personnel shall not work for, own or operate, in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, individually or through any business organization, any casino (whether or not such casino operates a "sports book" or otherwise accepts wagering on sports), or other gambling-related enterprise, including, without limitation, any online, computer-based, telephone, or internet gambling service, card rooms, lotteries, slot machine operations, horse or dog-racing tracks, off-track betting services, as well as advisory services such as publications, "tout services," and the like, whether or not such services address professional football or any other team sport.
The NFL defines personnel as, "All players, coaches and other full- and part-time club and league personnel, including but not limited to team owners, trainers, officials, security personnel, consultants, and other staff."
Even if Trump were to sell off his casino interests, he'd face another tall obstacle.
The NFL could box out Trump simply if the other owners don't like him, a very real concern. Trump, as owner of the New Jersey Generals, was the driving force behind the USFL's $1.7 billion antitrust lawsuit against the NFL in 1984.
Trump's motivations were questioned. He was viewed by many as self-serving, willing to nuke the USFL for personal gain. Some thought Trump sued in hopes the NFL would absorb the Generals.
The USFL won its lawsuit. The NFL got a nice laugh when the judge ordered it to pay $3.76 in damages.
As silly as it seems for a pop-music star to be an NFL owner, Kraft's friend Jon Bon Jovi might have an easier time being accepted into the club than Trump would.