Lamar Hunt, the founding owner of the Kansas City Chiefs and a key figure in the formation of the AFL and Major League Soccer, passed away yesterday. Hunt had suffered a collapsed lung in November and was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. The following are excerpts from the Kansas City Star’s obituary by Randy Covitz and Kent Pullman.
Hunt™s decision to relocate the Dallas Texans of the fledgling and struggling American Football League and rename them the Kansas City Chiefs in 1963 helped establish the region as a major-league community and ensured big-time sports would continue here for generations to come.
Hunt was one of the creators of the AFL in 1959 and was a principal negotiator in the merger of the AFL and NFL in 1966. He was credited with coining the term œSuper Bowl for what™s turned out to be the country™s most-watched sporting event, with the name coming from his children™s toy œSuper Ball.
Unlike some who inherit wealth, Hunt carved out his own niche. He became one of the world™s true sportsmen, changing the face of three professional sports in America through his founding of the American Football League in 1959, forming World Championship Tennis in 1967 and serving as a charter owner-operator of Major League Soccer in 1996.
Hunt was actively involved in the ongoing attempt to establish soccer as an American sport. He owned, and occasionally served as assistant coach of, the Dallas Tornado in the ill-fated North American Soccer League. His family oversaw the operations of three franchises in Major League Soccer, the Kansas City Wizards, FC Dallas and the Columbus Crew. The Dallas and Columbus franchises play in two of the country™s pre-eminent soccer-specific facilities built by Hunt Sports Group.
John Madden, who went on to a Hall of Fame career as a coach of the Chiefs™ archrival, the Oakland Raiders, expressed a debt of gratitude for Hunt™s efforts.
œI got my first coaching opportunity in the American Football League, and I know if it weren™t for Lamar Hunt there wouldn™t have been an American Football League, said Madden, now a network television analyst. œEvery time I ever saw him, I thanked him. Even when I was coaching the Raiders and we played the Chiefs or at a league meeting, I always thanked Lamar for what he did.
œWhen I knew the AFL was going to make it was after the first year of the AFL, and someone went up to Lamar™s dad, H.L Hunt, and said, ˜Your son, with this new league, has lost $1 million,™ and Lamar™s dad said, ˜Well, at that rate, he can only go another 100 years.™ That statement by Lamar Hunt™s dad said this AFL isn™t going to go away. That™s when the NFL realized that.”