Warrick Dunn is still a popular guy among NFL players, although the recently retired running back is part of a group of folks whose views on the league’s problematic labor issues are quite contrary to theirs. He was a player not long ago and was very much on that side of things. Not anymore.
Dunn, you see, was recently approved as a minority owner of the Atlanta Falcons.
Warrick Dunn can sympathize with today's NFL players but, as part-owner of the Atlanta Falcons, he understands the issues facing NFL franchises in the current labor dispute.
“Every player that I talk to says they would rather be on my side – because so many guys have a desire to be an owner,” Dunn said. “To sit in the box while the game is being played and to be part of an elite … group of guys: Owners. There are a lot of guys saying that’s going to be them one day. I’m saying it now.”
Dunn, 35, recently became one of seven minority partners in the Falcons ownership group, led by majority owner Arthur Blank. Dunn, who played with the Falcons from 2002-2007, says he wrote a sizeable check without saying how much.
“Like everyone else, I had to go through the whole process,” said Dunn, among a select group of running backs to rush for more than 10,000 yards (he’s 19th on the all-time rushing list with 10,967). “I am official. I have to get a business card that says, ‘Owner Atlanta Falcons.’”
Dunn said he explored all the typical routes players explore post-football: broadcasting, coaching, etc. Not for him. As a player, he was known as someone more civically involved than most players – he often said the recognition for his community service might have overshadowed his on-field production – so he planned to tread a different path.
Becoming part of an ownership group of an NFL team, though, seemed more whimsical than a reality. Then Blank called a few months ago and got Dunn to consider coming on board. A thought became reality quickly; Dunn saw this as an investment opportunity that could lead to bigger things – perhaps, one day, becoming a majority owner of an NFL franchise.
“I think outside the box and wanted to be a part owner and learn the game from a different perspective,” Dunn said. “I’ve got to think big. My whole life I’ve worked my way up. Now I need a helluva lot more money than I have now to own a team but by being on the same field as these guys now, I can figure out what I need to do to make more money and where the game is going from this level.
“The process could take me 30 or 40 years but, you never know.”
Dunn said he is exploring business ventures to help him increase his capital but has yet to finalize his direction. He’s hoping some of the connections he makes as an owner will help him figure things out. Dunn has moved from Tampa to Atlanta full time and said that he will be very visible, but his role, as a whole, is being defined – by him. His popularity surely will be used to his and the team’s favor as will his ability to deliver advice to players who still aren’t too far removed from remembering him. Dunn’s not too worried that being on the owners’ side of labor issues that could lead to an eventual work stoppage will affect any relationships.
“I am going to be around,” Dunn said. “I have to pull for my team, the Atlanta Falcons, for us to win. We win on the field; we win with merchandising, we win in sales. I’ve got to think along those lines. I want to be visible so people have access to me. The more that I learn about the game on the business side, the personnel side the better. I have a lot to learn and a lot of knowledge to be put in this head.”
— Steve Wyche