The Kennedys May Have Contemplated Buying the Eagles in the 1960s

Bobby and Jack tossing the pigskin.

Bobby and Jack tossing the pigskin.

Here’s some food for thought with the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the 35th President of the United States upon us—America’s first family (the Kennedys, for my non-history-buffs) may have discussed the possibility and feasibility of purchasing the Philadelphia Eagles in the early 1960s.

Former Iowa Senator John Culver raised the idea in an interview with NFL Network’s Mark Kriegel for The Untold NFL History of That Day in Dallas, a special feature page put together by the Network to commemorate the 50th anniversary. (A brief aside—the photos, stories, videos, and everything else on that NFL Network page is simply incredible and worth every second spent on it. If you have the time, go through it and enjoy some really fascinating images of that day in Dallas and its connection with the NFL.)

The “relatively modest price” peaked the interest of the Kennedy brothers—JFK, Robert, and Ted—but they grew “convinced it wouldn’t work with Jack’s responsibilities as president,” Culver said. News reports from the time had the Birds’ asking price listed as $4 million.

The Philly Inquirer had more on the Eagles-Kennedy relationship.

Fifty-one years later, the story’s details and origins remain hazy.

In the 1990 book, Pro Football Chronicle, co-author Bob O’Donnell noted that the topic of the Eagles arose as the brothers relaxed in the Oval Office one day that October.

Since the president had pointed out that, if elected twice, he’d be only 51 when his second term concluded, the brothers casually contemplated future careers.

A sports-page junkie and football fanatic, JFK had read that the Eagles’ principal owner, James P. Clark, had recently died of a stroke. Reports said his team, just two years removed from an NFL championship, would be sold.

“Jack and Bobby,” O’Donnell wrote, “thought it would be a terrific investment.”

According to O’Donnell’s version, the president asked Ted to set up a meeting with Eagles management. The team’s president at the time was Frank McNamee, one of the “Happy Hundred” ownership group Clark had assembled in 1949.

That meeting never took place.

According to O’Donnell’s account, the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 scuttled whatever Eagles plans the Kennedys may have had.

The team eventually was sold in 1963, shortly after JFK’s November assassination, to developer Jerry Wolman for $5.5 million.

Half a century later, with the three brothers gone, it’s impossible to gauge the seriousness of their interest or even whether they actually had any.

Whether they were ever serious or not about purchasing the team, the thought of the Eagles being owned by the Kennedys is rather fascinating—or frightening if you think about the luck that that family has had over the years (though, any kind of luck, good or bad, would’ve be an upgrade compared to what this franchise has been through over the decades).

With their Massachusetts ties, it’s not that far fetched to think they would’ve considered a move north, even though the Patriots had already been established at that point. But the Eagles were pretty sound financially, and were well-ingrained into the culture of Philadelphia.

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