SBJ/April 1-7, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Reinsdorf to be honored for career

Reinsdorf has multiple titles with the Bulls and Sox.
Photo by: CHICAGO BULLS
Jerry Reinsdorf late last month took in an advance screening of the coming film depicting the life of Jackie Robinson. The longtime sports executive grew up a Dodgers fan in Brooklyn and watched Robinson play in his Ebbets Field debut in 1947.

After watching the film, Reinsdorf told the media, “Brooklyn was the perfect place for the first black ballplayer. It was a melting pot.”

From watching history at Ebbets Field as a young man, to building a successful, 30-year career in the sports business, this kid from Brooklyn has created history of his own. Reinsdorf has brought seven championships to Chicago and has changed the face of the city by developing two facilities, U.S. Cellular Field and the United Center.

For those achievements, as well as his lifelong work toward social justice and the pursuit of advancement of minority representation in sports, Jerry Reinsdorf is the recipient of the SportsBusiness Journal/SportsBusiness Daily Lifetime Achievement Award for 2013.

Reinsdorf will be celebrated during the Sports Business Awards on May 22 in New York City.

After an early career in financial accounting and private business, Reinsdorf bought the Chicago White Sox in 1981. Four years later, be bought the NBA Bulls, and over his 32 years of franchise ownership, his teams have seen consistent success. The White Sox have won five division titles and the 2005 World Series. The Bulls have won six NBA championships while selling out the United Center for a period of 13 straight years.

His record of ownership success, along with his influential business leadership and advancement on social issues, has continually won Reinsdorf praise and admiration. He was a key figure in MLB pooling its Internet rights in creating MLB Advanced Media while also being a leader in the development of MLB Network. He is a member of MLB’s executive council and one of the most senior team owners in the game.

Essentially, nothing of importance gets done without Reinsdorf’s knowledge or, more often, his direct involvement.

With his success has come a share of critics, and Reinsdorf has been a lightning rod on certain subjects. He has been seen as uncompromisingly pro-management, and his six-year lawsuit against the NBA over WGN telecasts of Bulls games during the 1990s cast him as contrarian in many ways.

But Reinsdorf has influenced the direction of two sports in a straightforward, yet innovative way, and he’s been a progressive agent of change throughout his ownership tenure. In addition, he’s been widely-respected for the support and guidance he gives his executives.

Reinsdorf has been a pivotal figure in advancing minority representation in sports, as well. He was a key figure in creating MLB’s now-annual Diversity Business Summit and helped develop the annual MLB Civil Rights Game. He’s also co-chaired the sport’s equal opportunity committee. At the White Sox, he’s hired minorities as manager (Jerry Manuel and Ozzie Guillen), and when Ken Williams became White Sox general manager in 2000, Williams became only the third African-American to hold that title in baseball history.

These and other commitments to diversity in sports, along with Reinsdorf’s philanthropic and social efforts both personally and organizationally, have won him awards and praise. Reinsdorf and his organizations have received a Jefferson Award (considered the Nobel Prize for public service); the Barnes and Thornburg Jackie Robinson Award for diversity in the workplace; and the Commissioner’s Award for Philanthropic Excellence, for the White Sox’s Volunteer Corps program.

Reinsdorf’s career will be chronicled in the May 20 issue of SportsBusiness Journal.
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