Super Bowl reminds us that family and nepotism run the NFL.

It is highly possible that CBS television cameras will film a postgame celebration with the victorious team shortly after the conclusion of the Super Bowl, which will take place on Sunday in Las Vegas.

This will be the ninth time in the past 19 years that the Lombardi Trophy has been awarded to a white club owner who has inherited the ownership of the team from their family.

Additionally, the trophy will be presented to a white head coach who is the father, son, or grandchild of a member of the National Football League’s coaching tree for the eighth time in the past eleven years.

Will it be given to Jed York, the CEO of the San Francisco 49ers, who is the nephew of Eddie DeBartolo Jr., the former owner of the 49ers for a long time? It was Jed York who made the decision to hire Kyle Shanahan, the son of Mike Shanahan, the previous head coach of the 49ers who won the Super Bowl.

Clark Hunt, the owner of the Kansas City Chiefs and the son of Lamar Hunt, the founder of the organization, and the heir to the oil money of the Hunt family, will be the recipient of the trophy. Andy Reid, whose sons have both served on his coaching staff in recent years, was chosen by Clark Hunt to be the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.

As a result of the confrontation between the family factions at Allegiant Stadium, it serves as yet another reminder of the pervasiveness of nepotism and family birthrights in the National Football League (NFL). According to research conducted by USA TODAY Sports, sixteen of the league’s thirty owners inherited their teams from their families, whereas only six of the thirty owners in the NBA did so.

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What does that matter?

In a playoff system that is based on merit, this is the Super Bowl, the most important game of the season.

“The fact that sports is supposed to be a meritocracy is one of the reasons that these statistics may bother some people,” said David Grenardo, a law professor and sports law expert at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. “This is one of the reasons that these statistics may bother some people.” We have the best players on the team, and the team that plays the best is the one that comes out on top. On the other hand, meritocracy is only applicable to players and not to ownership or coaching.

Despite the fact that they traded on their family names in order to give or receive coaching jobs, Kyle Shanahan and Andy Reid are both acknowledged to be among the most brilliant coaches in the National Football League. They also competed against each other in the Super Bowl in the year 2020.
But now it comes against a shifting cultural backdrop in which the term “nepo baby” is used to describe children who follow in the footsteps of their celebrity parents – and while a lawsuit that was filed in 2022 against the National Football League (NFL) over its alleged pattern of discrimination against hiring Black coaches is still active.

In the instance of Shanahan, who is 44 years old, would this Super Bowl serve to highlight him as the epitome of nepotism in the National Football League? Or does it validate family pedigree as just another desirable attribute in a league that is rich with it, particularly for coaches who aren’t white like him? In other words, does it validate family inheritance?

Succession in the NFL

An old source of contention in the United States is the concept of privilege by birthright, which is a conflict between the concept of capitalistic property rights and the ideal of equal opportunity for all. The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, which was written in 1776, claimed that “all men are created equal” and railed against the idea of being subject to a king who had inherited his throne in England. The Civil War broke out as a result of the issue of slavery.

More recently, the subject has been discussed in popular culture, with certain performers expressing their disagreement with the notion that it is appropriate to allow their children to inherit wealth that they did not independently acquire. As a result of its scathing portrayal of unqualified sons competing to inherit control of their father’s worldwide economic enterprise, the hit HBO drama “Succession” was awarded an Emmy in the month of January.
All of this takes place in the context of an ongoing movement to provide more equitable access to the levers of power for those who did not gain them through birth, family connections, or other racial pressures. This movement is seen in both the commercial world and the sporting world. Kim Pegula of Buffalo and Shahid Khan of Jacksonville are the only two majority owners in the National Football League who are not white. Neither of these two owners inherited their ownership.
In a similar vein, the owners of the teams are the ones who hire the head coaches, but they have not typically handed those positions to people who are black or who are not white such as themselves. There are nine head coaches of color out of 32 in the National Football League this year, which is a record for the league. However, this is still a small fraction in a league where over sixty percent of the players in recent years have been black.

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According to the findings of research conducted by USA TODAY Sports, of the 752 on-field NFL coaches at the beginning of the 2023 season, at least 90 of them had a father, son, or sibling who had either actively coached in the NFL or had retired from the league. White coaches made up 76 (84.4%) of the total of 90 coaches who had links.

High-profile mom-and-pop shops

Despite this, the National Football League (NFL) is the most lucrative league in the United States, and this year’s playoffs were the most watched in the league’s history, with an average of 38.5 million viewers watching each postseason game.
Was this due to the fact that half of the National Football League teams are mom-and-pop shops that have been passed down as heirlooms, or was it in spite of this fact?

Even for the weakest clubs, it is a prestigious license to print money through NFL revenue-sharing, which is why so many family owners want to retain their teams in the family rather than selling them. This is a reason that is much easier to grasp. Forbes estimates that each and every National Football League team is valued at least $3.5 billion.
This was evident after Pat Bowlen, the owner of the Denver Broncos, passed away in 2019. His heirs engaged in a dispute similar to that of “Succession” regarding the ownership of the team, which ultimately resulted in the sale of the team to the family heirs of the Walmart empire for a price of nearly $5 billion in the year 2022.

“The situation is a microcosm of society,” said Grenardo, who authored a thesis on the paucity of Black owners in sports that was examined by peers the previous year. Within this culture, there is a wealth gap that has been built up over many generations and has been divided along racial lines for a very long time, to the advantage of white property owners.
Furthermore, when a family possesses an asset of this nature, it has always been their right to do whatever they want with it, provided that they do so in accordance with the rules. They can even place the initials of the players’ families on their uniforms, as the Chiefs do with patches on their jerseys to remember Clark’s late father, Lamar Hunt (“LH”), and mother, Norma K. Hunt (“NKH”), who both passed away.

In addition, they have the ability to appoint anybody they choose, including relatives whom they have faith in to manage the team, coaches who are similar to them, or even the 37-year-old son of a notable former NFL supervisor.

The Shanahan family hiring loop

At that age, Kyle Shanahan was hired by York in 2017, and he was confronted with issues over this matter prior to his final Super Bowl game, which was against the Chiefs in 2020. Given that he is currently competing in the Super Bowl once more, it is arguable that he serves as an illustration of why family pedigree is coveted for a purpose, particularly in a league in which ownership is defined by it.
He remarked that he has grown a “chip” on his shoulder in order to fight the idea that he was given a free pass. He learnt at the knee of a father who won two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos.

His first employment as a coach in the National Football League was with Tampa Bay, where he worked as a quality control assistant for head coach Jon Gruden.

During the month of January in the year 2020, Kyle Shanahan expressed his sentiments by saying, “I would never say it’s difficult, in terms of it gave me a real good life and gave me a lot of advantages.” My personal acquaintance with Jon Gruden was limited. To begin, I was given the opportunity to work as a quality control inspector, and I believe that it was helpful since my father knew him a little bit. On the other hand, I believe that when people know your last name, there is always human nature at play. Whether I made the basketball team in high school or not, it was always because of my dad, according to the guys who didn’t make it.

Moreover, his “advantages” contributed to the formation of a familial loop of sorts. Shanahan was hired as an assistant coach in Houston in 2006, under the direction of head coach Gary Kubiak. Kubiak had previously served as the backup quarterback for Denver at the time when Mike Shanahan was the offensive coordinator there in the 1980s. Houston hired Shanahan after Tampa. In 2010, after Mike Shanahan was elected to the position of head coach of the Washington football team, he appointed his son Kyle to the position of offensive coordinator.

Afterwards, in 2021, after Kyle was appointed head coach of the 49ers, he offered Gary Kubiak’s son Klay his first position in the National Football League. During the current season, Klay Kubiak and his brother Klint both worked as assistants for Kyle on his staff in San Francisco. Immediately following the conclusion of the Super Bowl, Klint Kubiak, who is 36 years old, is anticipated to advance his profession by becoming the new offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints.

Andy Reid and sons

Andy Reid, the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, appointed Spencer, his youngest son, to the position of assistant strength coach for the team in the previous year. Britt, another one of his kids, was working as a linebackers coach for the Chiefs until he was involved in a car accident in Kansas City two days before the Super Bowl in 2021. The accident rendered a young girl, who was just five years old at the time, with brain injuries. In 2022, Britt Reid was found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol and received a sentence of three years in jail. According to the records of the state, she is presently being held in the Maryville Treatment Center.

All three of the Kubiaks, the Reids, and the Shanahans are white coaches who were hired by white owners. In a statement that was included in the annual diversity and inclusion report of the National Football League (NFL), which was co-authored by researchers C. Keith Harrison and Scott Bukstein from the University of Central Florida, NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent even stated that “nepotism and cronyism must be eliminated.”

In a statement that was just sent to USA TODAY Sports, Harrison and Bukstein made the following statement: “Nepotism creates an overwhelming bias and inequity that has yet to be properly addressed throughout the league.”

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‘Maybe this isn’t a meritocracy’

On the other hand, there have been indications of a shift. According to data collected for the NFL Coaches Project by USA TODAY Sports, a record four men of color were hired as head coaches during the most recent hiring cycle. This brings the total number of head coaches of color to a record nine.

A greater number of black coaches over time could result in a greater number of younger black coaches being hired, just as many white coaches have been working for decades. Connor Embree, the wide receivers coach for the Chiefs, is the son of Jon Embree, who is Black and currently serves as an assistant head coach for the Miami Dolphins. Jon Embree was a former assistant coach for the 49ers. Anthony Lynn, who is Black and serves as the assistant head coach for the Niners, offered his son D’Anton a job on his staff when he was the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. D’Anton was able to break into the National Football League. At this point in time, the younger Lynn is a head-coaching prospect to keep an eye on. He is now serving as the defensive coordinator for Southern California university.

Dave Berri, a sports economist at Southern Utah University, stated that in the meantime, there has been an increase in awareness of these issues as a result of the increasing ethnic diversity that has occurred in society.

We used to make up a significantly larger percentage of adults, but now white males like myself make up only 29% of the adult population, he remarked. According to the statement, seventy percent of the population is analyzing the distribution of jobs and expressing the sentiment, “OK, well, it appears that we have hired the same group of people over and over again.” Perhaps this is not a meritocracy after all.’

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