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LEEinks list: Most controversial owners in sports

07.13.10 at 1:32 pm ET
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Owners in professional sports often are magnets for controversy. Whether it be squabbles with coaches and players regarding contracts, or disputes with the their competitors, they never seem to let us down when it comes to fresh Monday morning fodder.

With the sudden passing of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, and the recent controversy surrounding Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, it seems timely for a list of owners who have brought attention to themselves over the years.

Here is a list of the most controversial owners in sport, ranging from the beginning of the Steinbrenner era in 1973 up to today’s current batch.

10. Daniel Snyder, Redskins

Snyder has found himself working hard to sign high-priced free agents while keeping himself in the loop in the entertainment industry. Known for his public friendship with actor Tom Cruise, he has financed production companies and even purchased one of his own (Dick Clark Productions). But everything hasn’t been peachy for the millionaire mogul. Because the Redskins haven’t exactly flourished under his watch ‘€” which started in 1999 ‘€” he has been criticized for his personnel decisions and dealings with his fans.

While not exactly endearing himself to the local constituency, Snyder has banned signs at the team’s stadium and continues to escalate ticket prices. If you’re a Redskins fan, you can only hope he puts as much effort into the football side of his business as he does the entertainment side.

9. James Dolan, Knicks/Rangers

The Chairman of Cablevision Systems Corporation has had very little success with sporting franchises, having played a major role in the struggles of both the New York Rangers and Knicks. Dolan has struggled from his inception, even refusing to speak directly to the media anymore. In 2007 he was named as a defendant in a sexual harassment lawsuit that was filed against the team and specifically Isiah Thomas. Dolan ultimately had to pay $3 million himself because of the incident.

8. Ted Turner, Braves/Hawks

Although one of the most successful businessman of our generation ‘€” having established the cable networks CNN and TBS ‘€” Turner never has been afraid to speak his mind. His controversial comments earned him the nickname “The Mouth of the South.” The victorious 1977 America’s Cup skipper of the sailboat Courageous, he also was tabbed “Captain Outrageous.” He famously named himself Braves manager in 1977 before the league stepped in after one game and told him managers could not have an ownership interest.

7. Bill Veeck, Indians/St. Louis Browns/White Sox

Known for his publicity stunts and outgoing ways, Veeck made a name for himself in ownership circles. After taking a break from professional sports in 1961 due to poor health, the former owner of the Indians and St. Louis Browns returned in 1975 as the owner of the White Sox. His most controversial year came in 1979 . He offered fans free admission on April 10, the day after his team was beaten 10-2 by the Blue Jays. On July 12, Disco Demolition Night resulted in a riot that left Comiskey Park unplayable and forced the White Sox to forfeit a game to the Tigers. Veeck sold the White Sox in 1981 and died in 1986.

6. Jerry Jones, Cowboys

One of the more outgoing owners of this era, Jones has been an extremely hands-on guy, seen on occasion standing on the sideline during games and talking with coaches. He did not get off to a good start with the Dallas faithful, firing long-time head coach Tom Landry and replacing him with his former college teammate at Arkansas, Jimmy Johnson. He also recently caught some heat for making some unflattering comments about Bill Parcells and Tim Tebow while at a bar talking to some young men who egged him on.

5. Al Davis, Raiders

Since he took control of the Raiders in 1972, Davis has been unrelenting in his need to be in control. Serving as his own general manager, he often has been criticized for his dealings with players and coaches. Although the team has been immensely successful under his watch, the last seven years have not been easy for the 81-year-old. Born in Brockton but raised in Brooklyn, Davis had a well-documented battle with Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Allen, and has had a stable of coaches come in and out of the organization in recent years, none of which garnered any semblance of success.

4. Mark Cuban, Mavericks

When Broadcast.com sold for $5.9 billion in 1999, Cuban diversified his earnings and set out to make a name for himself. Purchasing the Mavericks in 2000, he quickly joined the controversy circle by finding himself in the middle of policy situations with the NBA. At this point in his ownership of the Mavericks, he has forfeited at least $1.6 million for 13 incidents. Most people know him for his sideline antics and passion for winning, but he never fails to stir the pot in both the NBA and financial world.

3. Art Modell, Browns/Ravens

Although he may have been usurped by LeBron James as the most hated person In Cleveland, Modell isn’t about to be forgiven anytime soon. Modell will forever be linked to his decision to relocate the Browns to Baltimore in 1996, a move that seems to still haunt the state of Ohio. Similar situations, like Robert Irsay’s overnight move of the Colts to Indianapolis, don’t seem to resonate as much, perhaps in part because of the promises Modell made to the fans to stick around.

2. Marge Schott, Reds

The first woman to buy an existing baseball team, Schott found herself in a firestorm of controversy for a series of callous and destructive comments. She was known for not wanting to hire scouts and her refusal to post scores of other games on the home scoreboard. Scott was known to treat her dogs better than many people who worked for her. She will forever be remembered for comments that were insulting to African-Americans, Jews, Japanese and homosexuals. She was banned from managing the team from 1996 through 1998 due to comments she made sympathizing with Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. She sold the team in 1999 and died in 2004 at the age of 75.

1. George Steinbrenner, Yankees

“The Boss” will go down as one of the most successful owners in professional sports, having won seven world series championships and 11 pennants with the Yankees. He also was suspended from baseball twice (1974 and 1990). Steinbrenner was known for his willingness to sign high-priced free agents, while also feuding with many of them. He once called out Dave Winfield after he signed him to a 10-year, $23 million contract, saying “Where is Reggie Jackson? We need Mr. October or a Mr. September. Winfield is Mr. May.” Although he has been noticeably absent the past few years, grooming his sons Hank and Hal to run the team, his presence as an owner will live on for ages.

Read More: Dan Gilbert, George Steinbrenner, Jerry Jones,