ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — For Mellody Hobson and Condoleezza Rice, the opportunity to join the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group's purchase of the Broncos was about more than simply owning an NFL team.
For Hobson, the chairwoman of Starbucks and president and co-CEO of Ariel Investments, it was a realization that went beyond her imagination.
"The moment is humbling, and it's historical," Hobson said. "And yet I feel at home. I'm very excited to be here. As someone once wrote, if you are going to exceed your wildest expectations, your wildest dreams, you have to start with some pretty wild dreams. And this is certainly in that category."
And for Rice, a former secretary of state and provost at Stanford University, joining the group was an opportunity to combine her deep-rooted love for football with her fond memories of Denver.
"You have to understand how much I love football," Rice said. "My dad was a football coach when I was born. I was supposed to be his All-American linebacker. When he got a girl, he decided to teach her about the sport instead. And even though my father's gone to the Lord, I have to think that today he's thinking, 'She finally got a really important job.' I want to say, too, that it's great to be back in Denver. I came to Denver for the first time as a 6-year-old when my family came for my parents to go to graduate school. We returned to live here when I was 12 years old. I was taught by the Sisters of Loretto at Saint Mary's Academy, on to the University of Denver twice for my undergraduate degree and my Ph.D. And during that period of time, everybody who lived here had to know what the Broncos mean to this community. I'm a part of the Orange Crush generation, where you could go into any grocery story or any restaurant and there were all of those Orange Crush cans piled up with Rubin Carter or Louis Wright peering over them. And of course the tradition would continue with the great Stanford man, John Elway, and Peyton Manning and others. This is a great tradition, a great heritage of winning. But the goal now is to build on that heritage and that tradition to continue it in a way that makes for a bright future."
As they build on that tradition, Hobson and Rice will also blaze a trail, as they are among the first Black female owners in NFL history.
"To me, actually, it's a blessing," Owner & CEO Greg Penner said of being joined by Hobson and Rice in the ownership group. "To have partners like this, their willingness to join us in this endeavor, is a huge blessing. I couldn't be more thankful."
Added safety Justin Simmons: "I think that's amazing. With what's been going on the past few years — everyone knows it's been forever — with what's been going on in our world, to see some diversity and to see strong, Black women in the ownership group and lead that role — what an inspiration. I think for so many people, there are little girls out here whose dad plays on the team, and they can look up [the] ownership of the Broncos and can see someone who looks just like them. I think that's really great, but the biggest thing on top of that is they didn't do that to just do that. These are really powerful, qualified individuals that deserve this, earned this and worked for this. That, to me, is inspiring. It lets you know that each and every day, you have the opportunity. It's just what are you doing with the opportunities you are given to take advantage of any given moment."
In taking advantage of those opportunities to advance, Hobson said she can feel a connection with players on the Broncos' rosters.
"I also want to acknowledge the bond that I feel with the players who, like me, have had to overcome a lot in their lives," Hobson said. "I know the amount of focus and discipline that it has taken for them to get here. I also know all of the people — the family at home, the community — that they are responsible for and that they really understand how much that community wants to see them win and how much they want to win for that community. I feel a bond with them, and I'm really, really happy to be a part of the organization to stand with them."
As Penner said Wednesday, the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group prioritized "different perspectives and experiences in backgrounds."
With Hobson and Rice — and Sir Lewis Hamilton — in the fold, the Broncos have just that.