NFL football is the pinnacle of entertainment for millions of Americans, the center of the television industry and essentially one large machine that prints exorbitant amounts of money for everybody involved. It is all possible in part because of the 31 extremely rich people who own the football teams, using their money to ensure a team can be put on the field and fans can come to see. They, of course, make a massive profit in the process.
This does not mean those 31 individuals are popular. Not by a long shot. In fact, they are largely unpopular. What follows is a ranking of the 10 most hated NFL owners in the league right now. Things have changed a bit since we last wrote this post back in 2016, so buckle up.
10. Jimmy Haslam, Cleveland Browns
Before we really dig into the list, you should know (if you don't already) that there is a direct correlation between how good a team is and how much vitriol the owner of that team receives. The Browns have not been good for a long time and thus the general public is more apt to forget Jimmy Haslam exists than dislike him. But for those aware of his presence, he is not beloved. His criminal business history is well-documented. He had to fork over nearly $100 million to the government and over $50 million to customers after the FBI found evidence of his company defrauding those customers on gas rebates.
Despite that, Haslam bought the Browns in 2012 and made a series of utterly disastrous decisions starting with drafting Johnny Manziel (allegedly because a homeless man advocated for his talents) and overseeing two of the worst seasons in NFL history, when his team went 1-31 over two years. He struck gold when he hired Kevin Stefanski, who has since led Cleveland back to relevance, but a lot more winning still needs to be done to atone for the mistakes of his past.
9. Virginia Halas McCaskey, Chicago Bears
Virginia Halas McCaskey is nearly 100 years old so there's a hard cap on how much she can actually be hated, and the foundation for the dislike she receives isn't really about her. It's about her willingness to leave all the Bears' decision-making to her children, specifically George McCaskey. Because his mother is happy to blindly let him make the big calls, McCaskey has almost single-handedly prevented the franchise from reaching championship contention.
We need look no further than the last half-decade of disaster. McCaskey hired Matt Nagy and didn't move on until a year too late. Then he made a complete mess of the press conference explaining why that happened. All this is not necessarily Virginia's fault, per se, but she has enabled her son and his cronies to sink the Bears time and time again over the last 10 years.
8. Jeffrey Lurie, Philadelphia Eagles
A lot of the heat on Jeffrey Lurie cooled after Doug Pederson and Nick Foles teamed up to win the Eagles' first-ever Super Bowl title. It has reignited after he ran Pederson out of town. Lurie is a hands-on owner, which does not necessarily portend bad things. There are plenty of good owners who like to be involved. But Pederson reportedly quit the Eagles job in part because he was forced to meet with Lurie and go over the gameplan every week of the season. Lurie also interferes in the draft, and The Athletic reported the 2020 draft "mystified" the team's scouts.
Lurie delivered the Eagles a Super Bowl and that will keep him in good graces to some degree for the rest of his tenure as owner. But don't be surprised if he rises on this list as the years go on.
7. Stan Kroenke, Los Angeles Rams
Stan Kroenke is mostly despised by a very certain segment of the population because he uprooted his franchise from St. Louis and headed to LA. Like Dean Spanos, Kroenke made a very unreasonable stadium request of the city of St. Louis, demanding they fork over billions to help pay for a new home, then used their refusal as justification that the Rams should go to Los Angeles. Reminder: Kroenke is a billionaire who could have funded a new stadium himself. He very obviously screwed over St. Louis, a widely-held opinion that became fact when he had to pay the city nearly $1 billion as part of a court settlement over the move a few months ago.
Kroenke's team won the Super Bowl this year, but the Rams don't have a robust fanbase in Los Angeles so there isn't anyone to back him. The only people who care about Kroenke work for him. Otherwise, he is generally disliked.
6. Robert Kraft, New England Patriots
Success breeds contempt, and there is no greater example than Patriots owner Robert Kraft. He oversaw the greatest dynasty in NFL history and just about everybody outside of the New England region got real sick and tired of watching him raise the Lombardi Trophy over the years. Then came his biggest scandal, when he was charged with two misdemeanor counts for "soliciting another to commit prostitution" down in Florida. The chargers were eventually dropped due to lack of sufficient evidence, but the damage was done.
Kraft is generally seen as the embodiment of an NFL owner -- an extremely wealthy man who cozies up to Roger Goodell. It does not help that the Patriots have been embroiled in a variety of cheating scandals over the years. It is hard to find anybody outside of New England who thinks fondly of Kraft.
5. Stephen Ross, Miami Dolphins
Stephen Ross' general incompetence got him on this list back in 2016 and now he's even higher because of what's happened over the last month. Ross has had another bad series of seasons in Miami, holding onto Adam Gase for one year too long before watching Ryan Tannehill leave the franchise and become a high-caliber starter in Tennessee. Ross struck gold when he hired Brian Flores, an up-and-coming young coach who made Miami's roster greater than the sum of its parts and forced a bad team into playoff contention when it had absolutely no right to be even close.
Then it all fell apart.
Ross' right-hand man, general manager Chris Grier, made a franchise-altering mistake by choosing Tua Tagovailoa over Justin Herbert. Then Ross inexplicably fired Flores, leading to a racial discrimination lawsuit and open accusations that he attempted to bribe the coach to lose games in an effort to land a high draft pick -- the one Grier wasted on Tagovailoa. The bribery accusation makes Ross come across as sleazy, and everything else makes him come across as incompetent. It'll be hard to change that perception anytime soon.
4. Shad Khan, Jacksonville Jaguars
Prior to this season, Shad Khan had the reputation of a cheerfully inept owner who couldn't really be blamed for how bad his team was because everything went so wrong all the time (except in 2017). Now he's firmly solidified his place among the worst owners in the entire league because he'll forever be remembered as The Guy Who Hired Urban Meyer. Meyer's catastrophic tenure with Jacksonville lasted less than one full season and still utterly tarnished the franchise's reputation. It started when Meyer hired a former strength and conditioning coach for Iowa who was fired due to racial discrimination and ended with Meyer's half-assed apologies for getting caught in a ... compromising situation, we'll call it, shortly after a loss.
Khan has somehow continued to sabotage his team by refusing to fire general manager Trent Baalke, a man widely disliked by the NFL community and whose presence prevented the Jaguars from hiring their top replacement candidates for Meyer. All you really need to know is that Jaguars fans dressed up as clowns for the final game of the season.
3. Dean Spanos, Los Angeles Chargers
This one shouldn't be too complicated. Spanos nuked virtually his entire fanbase to move from San Diego to Los Angeles in a naked cash grab. The result? The Chargers now play in a city that doesn't want them and have their games taken over by opposing fans nearly every week. The Bolts now essentially play 17 road games a season, all so Spanos could make moderately more money. The crazy part? According to Forbes, in the team's final season in San Diego, the Chargers were the NFL's 21st most valuable franchise. After five seasons in the nation's second-largest media market they now rank ... 23rd. Nice move, Deano.
Spanos' name will always be associated will villainy, right alongside guys like Bob Irsay and Art Modell. He'll forever be a pariah in San Diego, and no one in Los Angeles even knows who he is. Hope it was worth it.
2. Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys
Jerry Jones is pretty easily the most obnoxious owner in the NFL. He speaks in public constantly about his beloved Cowboys, and his team is always in the news because they are a big brand even though they haven't been particularly good over the last 20 years. The smug Texas oilman persona comes out often in his weekly interviews, making him an easy target for vitriol.
We at TBL have some appreciation for the absurd character that Jones puts forth; whatever you might say about him, the man will speak his mind unfiltered at any given opportunity. But his team is the most talked-about franchise in the NFL, he's the most forward-facing owner in the NFL, and nobody likes him or the Cowboys. Even the most casual football fan has an opinion on Jerry Jones -- and it's often not a positive one.
1. Daniel Snyder, Washington Commanders
We reach the pinnacle of our list. Snyder has been the architect behind one of the league's worst franchises since he purchased Washington in the late 90s. The Commanders are rarely any good, and when they are, there's something else going on to distract from it.
Is there anyone who actually likes Snyder? After an informal poll, the answer we've gotten back is an emphatic "no." With everything from massive internal investigations, repeated NFL investigations and Congressional hearings digging into the team's culture and business practices, there's very little to praise here. Snyder can't even get the trivial things right. He had to be forced to change his team's racially insensitive name, dragged out the renaming process for nearly two years, and then completely blew the reveal of the new name when the team shop put up banners the night before the announcement.
Daniel Snyder is a bad man and an even worse owner. It's hard to check both boxes at once with the kind of veracity Snyder has. Nobody is hated more than the owner of the now-Washington Commanders.