Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross recently decided to donate $200 million to the University of Michigan, his alma mater, making it the biggest single gift in the school’s history. Let’s rewind a few months to April, though.
Earlier this year, Ross, who is worth an estimated $4.4 billion, insisted that he needed taxpayer funding to help pay for the $289 million improvements he wanted to pursue for the 26-year-old Dolphins’ Sun Life Stadium. The bill was subsequently killed by House Speaker Will Weatherford before it was scheduled to go to vote, making Ross publicly question and challenge Weatherford’s political intentions.
Let all that sink in a moment.
Ross, who refused to put that money towards the stadium of the team he owns because he was insulted by Weatherford, instead decided to make a record-breaking donation to his old college as a gesture of good will. Not that it’s a bad thing, mind you. He made a very charitable contribution indeed, with funds going to one of the most important resources in America — education. But from a public relations standpoint, Ross all but sunk his aspirations to leverage Miami taxpayers. Making matters worse is the fact that half of Michigan’s donation will be used on the Wolverines’ athletic program. The new athletics campus in Ann Arbor will even be named the Stephen M. Ross Athletic Campus.
If you’re a Miami native, fan of the team or not, you should be questioning as to why Ross can, with one hand, give out $200 million in charity while simultaneously holding his other hand expecting taxpayers to dish out $289 million for his stadium.
“They are very different subjects, and I think it is important to be committed to both,” Ross said to the Miami Herald. “As I’ve often said, I’ve promised to pay a large portion of the stadium upgrade costs, but the community who would substantially benefit also needs to be involved.”
I’m sorry, Ross, but you can’t, from a public relations point-of-view, have it both ways. You can’t expect people to buy what you’re selling if you’re more or less insulting the very people you’re asking for money. If I were you, and frankly, I’m not, I would have used that $200 million on my own stadium and THEN donated to Michigan. You already plan on donating half of your fortune to charity anyway, why not do it the intelligent and logical way?
You dropped the ball, Ross, and if your team doesn’t perform this year, you might as well get out while you can.