Already a polarizing figure for his bumbling, awkward personality and his uncomfortable role in the failed coup that was the European Super League, John Henry made another misstep this week when it was announced that his Fenway Sports Group (FSG) is set to buy a controlling stake in the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins.
First off, let me say that, from what I understand, which admittedly isn’t a lot, everything about this deal is legal. There is no conflict of interest, at least on paper.
In the court of public opinion, however, this is another bad look for Henry and FSG, with the Penguins being a chief Eastern Conference rival of the Boston Bruins, who, as I’m sure he realizes, share many fans with the Boston Red Sox, the OG’s of Fenway Sports Group, if you will.
To me, this may as well be another example of John Henry flying a giant plane over Fenway Park with a banner that reads “I don’t even like sports.”
If Henry liked sports, he would understand that, unlike other businesses, the people and the organizations you support are in direct opposition to others. You can’t just buy up as many different stocks as you can to diversify your portfolio, because at some point, those stocks are going to play each other.
Can you imagine John Henry asking fans to come to Fenway to support the Red Sox and then sitting in the owner’s box in Pittsburgh and rooting for the Penguins against the Bruins? It’s gonna piss people off. It pisses me off just writing about it.
What’s going to happen when the Penguins dangle more money to sign a free agent that the Bruins are also in on? Why isn’t Henry spending that money on the Red Sox? He’s taking resources from the Red Sox to steal players from the Bruins. Now he’s screwing over Boston fans twice.
How’s the media going to cover that story?
How can NESN, the home of the Red Sox and Bruins, accurately report on the way those teams are being screwed over? You know who owns NESN? The Boston Red Sox. That means Henry and FSG.
What happens when the Bruins and Penguins meet for a 7-game playoff series? Henry will be happy as a clam, hedging his bets, collecting the gate from the home games in Pittsburgh while counting his money from NESN’s coverage of the B’s. For him, it’s a win-win. To the die-hard Boston fan, it’s a betrayal.
I don’t think Henry is oblivious to these realities. I just think he doesn’t care. He’s not a sports fan, so he doesn’t have any personal issues mixing his loyalties. And he’s so far removed from the common people, that he doesn’t really care what we think about his actions. As long as he can make another couple of bucks.
The same was true in March when FSG announced that Lebron James was being brought on as a partner. Probably the most hated player in the NBA for Celtics fans is going to be part owner of the Red Sox? Is this a joke?
It still feels dirty even now that that self-obsessed d-bag gets to put more money in his already bulging pockets every time they say “Play Ball” at Fenway. But do you think John Henry even knows who Lebron James is? “What, this young fellow wants to give me a few hundred million dollars? Well, sure son, come on and be a partner with me!”
Ownership should not just relate to its fans, it should be one as well
Bob Kraft grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts. He has been a fan of the Patriots since they were an AFL team, and a season ticket-holder since 1971. Kraft understands what it means to be a fan of the team he owns.
Can you imagine if Kraft bought a stake in the Brooklyn Nets? It’s a laughable thought. He would never do that, because it’s a terrible look and he knows that. And yet, Henry has gone and done essentially the same thing.
What must Cam Neely be thinking about his fellow Boston sports owner, who just bought one of his team’s biggest rivals? “Are you kidding me, John? This is an embarrassment.”
There are very few people that have the financial capacity to own a pro sports team, much less to own several, as well as stadiums, television stations and other assets. When they do get that privilege, the fans expect them to be the ultimate fan of that team – to act always in the best interest of that team, and to not share their resources, and their patronage, with the enemy.
John Henry doesn’t get that. He has never gotten it, and he never will. He’s a businessman, not a sports fan. And to do what he’s doing is spitting in the face of everyone who cares about the teams he owns.
So many of us dream about owning a sports team. It’s why fantasy sports is so popular. But this isn’t fantasy sports, where you can spread your rooting interests across the league with no ethical, moral or financial ramifications. This is real-life, franchise ownership at the highest levels of professional sports.
And John Henry is making a mockery of it.
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