Alex Rodriguez, Minnesota Timberwolves
Alex Rodriguez, left, and Marc Lore during their introductory press briefing with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2021 CARLOS GONZALEZ, STAR TRIBUNE/STAR TRIBUNE

ALABAMA - Early 2024 could prove to be a historic moment for Latinos in sports in the United States, as Alex Rodriguez could become the first member of this demographic to own a majority of an NBA franchise.

Concretely, A-Rod and his business partner, Marc Lore, are closing in on a deal to buy 40% of the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves along with the WNBA's Lynx. According to reports from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, they plan to exercise the option to purchase a further 40% of the team, adding to the 40% they initially bought in April 2021.

The purchase is still subjected to the approval from the NBA's board of governors, but if successful, it would make Alex Rodriguez just the 4th person of Latin American descent to currently have majority ownership of a team in any of the big five professional leagues in the United States (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS).

In recent times, we have seen a surge of minority and majority investments coming from celebrities and even former and current athletes. Just this year, the Antetokounmpo brothers purchased a small share of MLS' Nashville SC, while San Diego Padres star Manny Machado also jumped on the soccer bandwagon and became a minority owner at the league's newest franchise, San Diego FC.

"It's something that as a baseball player, it's not only about playing the sport but academically and personally there's a lot more to life than just a sport. But growing through the sport leads you to the right direction and can lead you to bigger things in life," said Machado during his introductory ceremony back in May.

Manny Machado presented as minority owner of San Diego FC (Via TJ Sports USA on YouTube)

The desire to achieve bigger things in life, as described by Machado, is something that has certainly motivated and pushed the few Latino pioneers that have ventured into the sports world. Even celebrities have developed an interest in using sports as a vehicle to break barriers. Fellow Latinas Becky G, America Ferrera and Eva Longoria all purchased shares at NWSL's Angel City FC.

However, despite the recent purchases, the most recent studies conducted by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) show that only three other individuals that identify themselves as Latinos currently hold a majority stake at a team across the U.S. major leagues.

Arturo Moreno, who owns the Los Angeles Angels, broke barriers becoming the first Latino owner of a major sports franchise in the United States after completing the deal in 2023.

With Moreno as the pioneer, others followed his footsteps. Cuban American Alex Meruelo ventured into the NHL and became the majority owner of the Arizona Coyotes in 2019. In a league where Latinos are often overlooked for front office positions, Meruelo appointed Xavier Gutierrez as CEO and team president, making him the NHL's only president of Latin American descent.

In an interview with Forbes, Gutierrez highlighted the importance that representation has in sports. "Latinos represent a $21 billion sports marketplace and the fastest-growing demographic of fans, so every league should be paying close attention to these underlying trends. It's critical for diverse voices to have a seat at the table, impacting a broader array of decisions through their unique perspectives and personal histories," said Gutierrez.

Jorge Mas became the latest individual of Latino descent to hold majority ownership of a professional team, as Inter Miami CF entered Major League Soccer in 2020. Acting as the managing owner of the club, the Cuban American has had a fantastic start to life in South Beach, assembling a star-studded team that includes Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez, Sergio Busquets and Josef Martínez.

With professional leagues becoming more aware of the importance of diversity, teams have launched campaigns during heritage months or cultural nights in order to connect with fans and local communities. "It's important to be consistent and purposeful year round. Fans and customers take note of those who engage only in episodic or event-driven ways, and conversely reward those who embrace their community all year, from leadership down to the entire organization," Gutierrez, the Coyotes CEO and president, added during his interview.

With more Latinos taking part on the decision making, people like Alex Rodriguez can help close that cultural gap, with owners who take into account diversity at the time of managing a professional sports team.

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