Denise DeBartolo York deserves your respect.
While she has avoided the spotlight that her brother,
DeBartolo, so famously embraced during the ’80s, when he turned San Francisco
into the hub of the NFL universe, York has toiled quietly in the shadows,
expanding her family’s corporate empire and sponsoring the construction of
state-of-the-art athletic fields around the Bay Area.
As president of the Pittsburgh Penguins from
1988 to 1991,
she earned a championship trophy of her own, becoming one of only eight women
to have her name engraved on the Stanley Cup. She is a dedicated mother of four
whose net worth approaches $1 billion, but she still shops regularly at
Walgreens and T.J. Maxx. And let’s not forget that she presided over the 49ers
as a mostly invisible partner during every one of their Super Bowl-winning
But according to one man, the Youngstown, Ohio, native lacks
the intensely competitive mindset that made her brother such an unprecedented
success with the Niners. And that man is Carmen Policy.
“Denise DeBartolo is a very nice woman.
She’s a real delight
and a good solid person, a good human being,” Policy recently told KGO Radio.
“She never really wanted the football team. She’s more interested, I think, in
cheering for Youngstown State’s women’s basketball team because they’re local.
It’s a community thing. So I don’t mean she’s not interested in the 49ers – she
is. But she’s not a sports-type fan.”
By her own admission, York never sought sole ownership
the 49ers. The franchise fell into her lap after her brother was suspended from
the NFL for his role in the corruption case of former Louisiana governor Edwin
Edwards. And though some team owners, including Jerry Jones of the Dallas
Cowboys, have vowed to campaign for Eddie DeBartolo’s reinstatement – should he
ever seek it – York has never hinted that she would welcome her estranged
brother back into the fold.
Now Policy, who was DeBartolo’s team president and chief
executive officer, has openly questioned York’s dedication. And that’s not all
– he is spearheading a movement to keep the Niners in San Francisco, at a
Hunters Point location “that right now is basically a desert that will be
transformed into an oasis.”
Armed with the signatures of more than 14,000 San Francisco
residents who hope to keep the Niners in the city, Policy is pushing a ballot
measure that would jumpstart the redevelopment of Hunters Point and Candlestick
Point, paving the way for the construction of a new stadium and 10,000 housing
units. It’s an initiative that the 49ers have neither seen nor supported – York
is reportedly waiting for Santa Clara voters to approve a new, city-sponsored
stadium for the team, possibly on Election Day. But Policy hopes to have a
competitive proposal in place by July, and he seems confident that the Yorks
will listen. After all, what do they have to lose?
While the 49ers seem to have abandoned any plans
in San Francisco, Policy has pushed himself to the forefront of the movement to
keep the team on the city's southeast side, where it became one of the NFL's
flagship franchises. Without him, it is doubtful that movement would gather any
momentum, despite the Yorks' abysmal 58-89 record since taking over. With him,
it stands a chance. Policy remains highly respected within NFL circles, and to
Niners fans he is a symbol of all things sacred: Joe Montana. Steve Young.
Jerry Rice. Bill Walsh. Five Lombardi Trophies.
Will his plan work? Who knows? There’s a certain
the idea of Policy stepping in to save the Niners one more time, and short of
bringing the city a sixth championship, a new stadium at Hunters Point could be
the next best thing. Stay tuned.