NFL has no approval process for owners who transfer their team to family members

When an outsider buys all or part of an NFL team, a full-blown approval process becomes activated. When an owner of an NFL team dies and transfers all or part of the team to one or more family members, no approval process applies.

It’s a question that more than a few Texans fans have posed in recent weeks, hopeful that perhaps the powers-that-be would deem Cal McNair unqualified to officially assume the reins of the franchise his late father founded in 2002.

Technically, Janice McNair is listed as Co-Founder and Senior Chair of the Texans. Her son, Cal, is the Chairman and CEO. Regardless of whether Cal owns equity now or will acquire it as part of the administration of his mother’s estate, the transfer was or will be automatic, with no league procedures for approving, or not approving, Cal’s ownership of the team.

Tweaks have been made over the years. In 2014, for example, owners were required to identify every year the person who would succeed the owner, if he or she dies. (The objective is to prevent families for fighting over control of the team.) As one league source explained it to PFT on Sunday morning, however, it’s unlikely that the league would ever adopt an approval process for spouses, siblings, sons, daughters, etc. who inherit a team.

The reason for avoiding an approval process for family members is simple. As the source explained it, there are too many owners who know that one or more of their children would not get the 24 votes necessary to approve the transaction.

And that’s one of the very real dynamics that makes pro football so compelling. These multi-billion-dollar football organizations ultimately are ruled by monarchies, with each king or queen deciding who takes over at the appropriate time. As long as there are sufficient resources available to pay the estate taxes (and that’s becoming more and more challenging as franchise values continue to climb), the keys can be handed to any family member — no matter how badly that person could or will screw things up.