Sports fans are used to seeing their favorite athletes entering the realm of celebrity. Professional athletes not only just tend to be rich, which is a prerequisite for fame, but they’re young and heavily engaged with branding across social media and products. It is even easier for athletes in certain sports where faces are featured prominently—such as basketball, baseball and soccer—to gain fame through sheer recognition.
Basically, in this digital age, nearly all professional athletes of significance qualify as celebrities. Less common is the owner of the sports franchise cracking that world. Most of them are billionaires, yet their business isn’t front-facing. They operate predominantly behind the scenes, with legions of employees at their disposal to handle day-to-day operations and speak with the media.
Every so often, though, you get an owner of a professional sports franchise who crosses the boundaries of celebrity. We’re not talking about minority stakes in teams, either. We’re talking about majority owners. And in Texas right now, there are two who have seen their celebrity skyrocket through recent years: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Dallas Cowboys Jerry Jones. Part of their additional exposure has to do with their outspoken support for legalizing online sports betting in Texas. But their celebrity goes beyond the political platform each has been given.
What makes Cuban and Jones so different from the other pro sports owners in Texas, as well as pretty much the majority of pro sports owners across the globe?
Is it just about their money?
Or is it something else?
We’re so glad you asked.
Mark Cuban is Committed to Living Celebrity Lifestyle
Mark Cuban is what you would call a modern-day billionaire. He accumulated the first chunk of his net worth, which now flirts with $5 billion, by capitalizing on the dot-com bubble at the end of the 1990s and into the 2000s.
Since then, Cuban has ensured he’s at the center of everything he does.
Most sports owners don’t attend nearly every single game their team plays. Cuban does. Whether on the road or at home, you can see Cuban sitting in the stands and rooting for the Mavericks.
Not only that, but he’s animated about his fandom, having become notorious for his arguments with NBA referees and faces made on camera. And whereas other pro sports owners, including Jerry Jones, adorn themselves in business attire for games, press conferences and events, Cuban opts to wear jeans and a Mavericks team t-shirt—typifying the outfit of a regular fan.
On top of all that, Cuban is among the entrepreneurs who star in the reality TV show Shark Tank. This series effectively sees people who are successful as seed investors, such as Cuban, listen to product and idea pitches from start-up entrepreneurs and determine whether they’re going to give them money to further their cause.
And finally, Cuban has gained celebrity by, well, living like one. Even now, when he’s in his 60s, he’s known to be up for frantic nights on the town. In years past, he was notorious for attending clubs and partying with his players. He is, in essence, a tabloid staple and businessman rolled into one.
Jerry Jones has Unique Control Over the Cowboys
Jerry Jones has earned his celebrity for completely different reasons relative to Mark Cuban.
For starters, he controls one of the single most valuable sports franchises in the world. The Dallas Cowboys are not called “America’s Team” by accident. They have a dominant fanbase in almost all of the 50 states, and as American football has grown more popular on a global scale, Dallas has also emerged as the team of choice for many international fans.
To top it all off, Jones actually controls the day-to-day operations of the Cowboys. He isn’t just making the final call on trades and player evaluations. He is running those processes.
That’s extremely rare for an owner. Especially in the NFL. It has earned Jones his fair share of criticism, in large part because the Cowboys have not been very successful since their dominant run in the 1990s.
Still, holding the position of owner and general manager or team president or whatever you call it nowadays makes him stand out like a sore thumb. He is clickbait for sports sites and even celebrity gossip. The latter has more to do with his numerous links to much younger partners, as well as his willingness to make Hollywood cameos in shows such as HBO’s Entourage and Ballers.
Any way you slice it, though, Jones and his $11.7 billion net worth have achieved celebrity status.