As I explained in last week’s introduction, the American pro sports world is almost exclusively based on a franchise model of ownership, a fundamental principle that few observers fully comprehend. When events like the Rams’ move to Los Angeles occur, debates over relocation cover issues like ownership greed and self-interest. I argue that the enemy is not ownership, but rather the franchise model itself. It may seem obvious that franchises in pro sports are common, but sportswriters never stop and address the big picture. “Franchise” is a deeply important concept to grasp for American sports fans, and it’s time we dive in.
Because it shares the same lexicon as the business world, it is helpful to describe sports franchising through comparison with an overlord of American franchise businesses: the McDonald’s Corporation. This comparison is a simplification of the franchise model, but not an over-simplification. The principles supporting both pro sports franchises and fast food franchises are the key similarities for making my bigger points in this article.