About Lamar Hunt
Lamar Hunt (August 2, 1932 – December 13, 2006) was an American sportsman and promoter of American football, soccer, basketball, and ice hockey in the United States and an inductee into three sports' halls of fame. He was one of the founders of the American Football League (AFL) and Major League Soccer (MLS), as well as MLS predecessor the North American Soccer League (NASL). He was also the founder and owner of the National Football League's Kansas City Chiefs, the Kansas City Wizards and at his death owned two MLS teams, Columbus Crew and FC Dallas. The oldest annual team tournament in the U.S. in any sport, soccer's U.S. Open Cup (founded 1914) now bears his name in honor of his pioneering role in that sport stateside. In Kansas City, Hunt also helped establish the Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun theme parks. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972; into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1982; and into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1993. The National Soccer Hall of Fame bestowed upon Hunt their Medal of Honor in 1999, an award given to only 3 recipients in history thus far. He was married for 42 years to his second wife Norma, and had four children, Sharron, Lamar Jr., Daniel, and Clark Hunt.
Hunt was born in El Dorado, Arkansas, the son of oil tycoon H. L. Hunt and younger brother of tycoons Nelson Bunker Hunt and William Herbert Hunt. Lamar was raised in Dallas, Texas. He attended Culver Military Academy and graduated from The Hill School in Pennsylvania in 1950 and Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 1956, with a B.S. degree in geology. Hunt was a college football player who rode the bench but was still an avid sports enthusiast during his time in college and throughout his entire childhood. While attending SMU, Hunt joined the Kappa Sigma fraternity and in 1972 was named "man of the year.
Founding of the American Football League---
On the strength of his great inherited oil wealth, Hunt applied for a National Football League expansion franchise but was turned down. In 1959, professional football was a distant second to Major League Baseball in popularity, and the thinking among NFL executives was that the league must be careful not to "oversaturate" the market by expanding too quickly. Hunt also attempted to purchase the NFL's Chicago Cardinals franchise in 1959 with the intent to move them to Dallas, but was again turned down.
In response, Hunt approached several other businessmen who had also unsuccessfully sought NFL franchises, including fellow Texan and oil man K.S. Bud Adams of Houston, about forming a new football league, and the American Football League was established in August 1959. The group of the eight founders of the AFL teams was referred to as the "Foolish Club." Hunt's goal was to bring professional football to Texas and to acquire an NFL team for the Hunt family. Hunt became owner of the Dallas Texans and hired future hall-of-famer Hank Stram as the team's first head coach.
Ownership and NFL merger---
The Dallas Texans were one of the most successful AFL teams in the league's early days but the their success failed to draw fans in large numbers, as the Texans had to compete for fan loyalty with their cross-town NFL rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. In 1963 Hunt began to consider moving the team. Kansas City became one of the contending cities for the franchise. In order to convince Hunt to move the team to Kansas City, mayor H. Roe Bartle promised Hunt home attendance of 25,000 people per game. Hunt finally agreed to move the team to Kansas City and in 1963 the Dallas Texans became the Kansas City Chiefs.
In the Chiefs' first two seaons attendance did not match the levels Mayor Bartle had promised, but in 1966 average home attendance at Chiefs games increased and reached 37,000. By 1969—aided by some very successful and entertaining teams—Chiefs' average home attendance had reached 51,000. In 1966 the Chiefs won their first AFL Championship and reached the first ever Super Bowl (a name coined by Hunt, who took it in part from the then popular toy, the Super Ball), then called the “AFL-NFL Championship Game” which the Chiefs lost to the Green Bay Packers. The Chiefs remained successful through the 1960s, and in 1970 the Chiefs won the AFL Championship and Super Bowl IV (the last Super Bowl played when the AFL was a separate league prior to it being absorbed into the NFL as the American Football Conference) over the heavily-favored Minnesota Vikings.
In 1972, Hunt became the first American Football League personage inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The trophy presented to each year's AFC Champions is named the Lamar Hunt Trophy. In 1984, Hunt was also inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.
Hunt insisted that he be listed in the team media guide as the founder of the Chiefs rather than the owner. He publicly listed his telephone number in the phone book until his death.
The NASL: ownership and battles with the NFL---
In 1967 Hunt helped promote professional soccer in the United States. Hunt's intereset in soccer began in 1962 when he met his future wife, Norma, at a Shamrock Rovers match in Dublin, Ireland. In 1966, he viewed the FIFA World Cup in England, and then attended nine of the next11 World Cups tournaments. Hunt was one of the few people in the world who attended a game in every World Cup stadium during World Cup USA 1994, World Cup France 1998 and World Cup Korea/Japan in 2002.
In 1967, Hunt founded the Dallas Tornado as members of the United Soccer Association. In 1968 the league merged with the National Professional Soccer League to form the North American Soccer League. Hunt was an active advocate for the sport and the league and the Dallas Tornado won the NASL championship in 1971 and were runners-up 1973.
The NFL owners were not happy with Hunt's ownership in and promotion of pro soccer. The NFL attempted to force legal requirements that would disallow team ownership in more than one sport for owners of NFL franchises. This strategy backfired on the NFL, and the NASL won an anti-trust case against the NFL. A primary benefactor of this outcome was Lamar Hunt.
Lamar Hunt died December 13, 2006 at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas of complications related to a ten-year battle with prostate cancer. Upon his death, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones called Hunt, "a founder of the NFL as we know it today.... He's been an inspiration for me."
Said Dan Rooney, chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers: "Lamar Hunt was one of the most influential owners in professional football over the past 40-plus years, He was instrumental in the formation of the American Football League and in the AFL-NFL merger, which helped the National Football League grow into America's passion."
The Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, Kay Waldo Barnes, requested that all city flags fly at half-staff the following Thursday and Friday of his passing.
Upon his death his son Clark Hunt was named chairman of the Kansas City Chiefs and FC Dallas. He was elected by his other three siblings, Lamar Jr., Sharron Munson, and Daniel.
In 2007, the Kansas City Chiefs honored Hunt and the AFL. The Chiefs 2007 Media Guide is full of images, logos and anecdotes about the league and each of its original teams. featured in the Guide and in the Chiefs 2007 Yearbook is a special AFL patch. The Yearbook's description of the patch states: "As part of a year-long tribute to Hunt in 2007, the Chiefs will wear a commemorative patch that prominently features the American Football League logo to serve as a reminder of Hunt's formation of the AFL and the lasting impact the American Football League has made on the game of Professional Football. The patch will be affixed to the left chest of both Kansas City's home and away jerseys, meaning this piece of woven symbolism will be worn over the heart of every Chiefs player." On January 31, 2008, Clark Hunt, Lamar Hunt's son and Chairman of the Chiefs, announced that henceforth, the patch will be a permanent part of the Chiefs uniform.
In 2007, the Columbus Crew honored their founder and owner by displaying a commemorative Lamar Hunt emblem on the left chest of both the home and away jerseys. The emblem consisted of the initials "LH" within a circle. Prior to the 2008 season, the Crew announced that the "LH" emblem will be a permanent patch on the left sleeve of the club's jerseys. In addition, Crew supporters groups have added the LH emblem to their scarves and banners.
After the Crew won the MLS Cup championship in 2008, the "LH" emblem was inscribed on the inside of the team's championship rings.