NFL enforces anti-racing policy

Dec 23, 2008 5:02 PM
by Ray Poirier | Horse racing and the National Football League don’t mix. NFL officials have been pretty emphatic in that regard.

Last week the league forced the Rooney family to give up their interests in harness and greyhound racing or face the loss of their Pittsburgh Steelers franchise. Obviously, they chose to reorganize rather than give up an activity started by their gambling legend father more than seven decades ago.

This isn’t the first time the league has interfered in a franchise’s management because of its anti-horse racing policies.

Just last year, NFL pressure on Bob McNair, founder and owner of the Houston Texans, forced him to sell his vast thoroughbred racing interests.

McNair was the owner of Stonerside Stables, a farm in Paris, Ky., where he bred such champions as Raven’s Pass, winner of the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Classic, and Midshipman, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and one the early favorites for next year’s Kentucky Derby.

Because of the NFL edict, McNair, a billionaire entrepreneur and philanthropist who sold his Cogen Technologies to Enron Corp., disposed of his racing interests involving more than 250 horses to Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed.

And come May, 2009, rather than having his racing colors carried to victory at Churchill Downs, Bob McNair will have to be satisfied with having bred the winner, Midshipman, should the colt win America’s most illustrious race.

Back in the 90’s, the NFL showed its power by targeting the DeBartolo Family, owners of the San Francisco 49ers.

The family also operated racetracks in Ohio a "no no" in the minds of the football franchise owners. The family capitulated and sold off its racing interests.

Maybe things would have been different if such formidable personalities such as Art Rooney, Sr., and Edward J. De Bartolo, Sr., were still around.