Sports

Why Hasn't Peyton Manning Been Added to Broncos Ownership Group Yet?

Peyton Manning at Broncos training camp on July 30.
Peyton Manning at Broncos training camp on July 30. Denver7 via YouTube
On August 9, National Football League owners are scheduled to consider the $4.65 billion bid for the Denver Broncos by the Walton Penner Group, headed by Walmart heir Rob Walton, daughter Carrie Walton Penner and her husband, Greg Penner, chair of Walmart's board. In advance of the vote, the group has been busy diversifying its membership in accord with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's wishes supplementing the participation of Black entrepreneur Mellody Hobson, who chairs the Starbucks board and is married to Star Wars creator George Lucas, with former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Formula One superstar Lewis Hamilton.

But despite these high-profile gets, Broncos fans continue to ask: What about Peyton Manning?

The most famous former pro footballer in the U.S., Manning, who retired in 2016 after helping the Broncos win Super Bowl 50, has been rumored to be joining an ownership collective since the team was officially put on the block earlier this year, and such reports kept coming after the rise of the Walton Penner Group. On June 9, a month before the agreement was finalized, ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted, "The Walton-Penner Broncos’ ownership group has had conversations with Peyton Manning about an advisory role in the organization that eventually could mean being a part of the ownership group and having equity in the franchise, per sources," and on July 15, Sports Illustrated published "Manning Expected to 'Join the Alliance' of New Broncos' Leadership."

Meanwhile, Manning continues to maintain close ties with the team. He was on hand throughout the most well-attended Broncos training camp practice of all time on July 30, hanging out on the sidelines for hours in plain view of more than 7,000 fans. His presence served as both a reminder of glories past and a possible hint of the future.

And then there's the video put out by the team this summer, in which new quarterback Russell Wilson is seen serving as Manning's intern:
Appearances like these suggest that Manning is indeed planning to join the Walton Penner Group — and if that's the case, there are a number of good reasons why such an announcement hasn't yet been made.

For one, Manning adds plenty to the ownership group's glamour and legitimacy but nothing to diversity, the clear focus during recent months. Moreover, Manning is a good businessman, and he won't sign on unless the deal is sweet enough — and each ancillary project he launches only increases his value.

Examples abound. This past season's so-called Manningcasts — in which he and his younger brother, Super Bowl-winning ex-QB Eli Manning, delivered off-the-cuff narration to Monday Night Football broadcasts — became a popular and critical hit, spawning a slew of second-rate imitations and attracting loads of special guests. Among the latter was Rice, who rhapsodized about the sport: "I’ve loved football since I was a little girl. My dad was a football coach. When I was born, I was supposed to be his All-American linebacker; he got a girl. So he taught me about the sport. My fondest memories are of anything watching football with my dad."

Since then, Manning has been involved in several different kinds of games on television. NBC's reboot of College Bowl, which he hosts, is scheduled to kick off its second season on September 9, and he's an executive producer of The Final Straw on ABC. And earlier this week, he was announced as co-emcee with country-music superstar Luke Bryan of the 56th annual CMA Awards on November 9 in Nashville.

Given all these opportunities, Manning is definitely in a position where he doesn't have to take a lowball offer — and given what's been characterized as his longtime interest in actually running a team as general manager someday, he may decide against taking any Broncos gig that doesn't give him decision-making power.

Nonetheless, fans clearly love the idea of a Manning role in the Broncos moving forward. Now it's up to the Walton Penner Group to make it happen.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts