An offer to make John Mackey a partial owner of a new National Football League team in Baltimore has been extended to the newest Baltimore Colt Hall of Fame enshrinee by the group headed by Tom Clancy and Jim Robinson.
Clancy and Robinson are two kids from working-class Baltimore families who grew up to be momentous success stories in the worlds of publishing and movie production.
The possibility of bringing Mackey into their organization has been under discussion since the Super Bowl last January in Minneapolis. Clancy and Mackey met there and details were discussed with attorney David Cohan, who was one of Mackey's friends and advisers during the nine years he spent playing for the Colts.
Cohan also represents Clancy and Robinson in their bid to gain an expansion franchise for the city. The main money would be supplied by Clancy and Robinson in paying entrance fees to the league.
The invitation was extended to Mackey, who was with his wife, Sylvia, yesterday in the Stouffer Harborplace Hotel.
The question of being black, or a minority, was put aside by Mackey.
"Look, when John Unitas threw me a pass, he didn't care what color I was," said the former tight end.
Six months ago, when Clancy was told by some business leaders he should have a minority member with him in his pursuit of a team, he stressed how he felt and gave a direct answer that Mackey heard about and applauded.
"I don't believe in being told I should hire a certain white man or a certain black man," Clancy commented. "You go after the best. We want John Mackey with us for his brains and experience. He headed the [NFL] Players Association and would be eminently fair in dealing with personnel and even the overall operation of a team."
If it happens, and Mackey joins Clancy and Robinson, don't rule out the chance Mackey might well become the first black to be a general manager of an NFL club, providing Baltimore is awarded membership in the league's expansion derby.
What is Mackey's reaction to what has transpired?
"I'm elated, but will go back home to California, talk with friends I respect for their knowledge and make a decision," he answered. "Before I become a part of any endeavor, I want to find out as much as I can about the people I am going to be with and their reputations."
Another Baltimore ownership group, the one led by Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, earlier named Joe Washington, a onetime Chargers, Colts and Redskins halfback, to its management team. Washington, who is black, makes his home in a Baltimore suburb.
It might appear on the surface that Clancy/Robinson were responding to the move by Weinglass in making a similar decision but, in reality, there is no connection. The Mackey possibility has been ongoing since January.
"Among the NFL owners, I've met," said Clancy, "I must tell you I was impressed. I didn't find them to be a bunch of robber barons. I hope they like me. Even if I don't get the team, just getting to know Ed McCaskey Sr., of the Chicago Bears, has been rewarding in itself. What a princely man."
As to the wealth that Clancy and Robinson collectively represent, neither would address the subject.
"Put it this way," explained Robinson, "we have far more than what the cost of a franchise might be. Tom's latest book has set a world record for an advance. The Wall Street Journal had it wrong. It's closer to $20 million. And the movie, 'Patriot Games,' which came out this summer, is up to $74 million in receipts and that doesn't count overseas."
Robinson, chief executive of Morgan Creek Productions, scored impressively with his release of "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," starring Kevin Costner. At last count, it had a world gross of $500 million. Other Robinson efforts have included "Pacific Heights," "Dead Ringers," "Young Guns" (I & II), "Major League" and "Enemies, A Love Story."
A graduate of Dundalk High and the University of Maryland, Robinson and his wife, Barbara, live in Lutherville. All five of their sons went to McDonogh School. Clancy was educated at Loyola High and Loyola College.
"We want the team and have no desire to use it to further our reputations," remarked Robinson. "We just don't need any of that. In Clancy we have a name that brings instant world-wide recognition. And in Mackey, if he comes with us, we would be getting a man with hard-to-find expertise and background, known all over college and professional football."
Coincidentally, Robinson, Clancy and Mackey all brag about how they were raised and are proud of their backgrounds. Robinson's father was an automobile mechanic at Griebel Motors, Clancy's father was a postman and Mackey's father a Baptist minister.
If Mackey joins in to make it a threesome, it makes for a powerful mix of talent.