The NFL’s presence overseas just took a strange and interesting turn.
President-elect Donald Trump said on Thursday that New York Jets owners Woody Johnson would be named to the post of U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom. Trump revealed his newest appointment at a luncheon in Washington D.C. the day prior to being sworn in as the 45th U.S. president.
Robert Wood “Woody” Johnson IV purchased the Jets 17 years ago on Wednesday. He is a longtime Republican donor who served Jeb Bush’s campaign before shifting his support to Trump once Bush dropped from the race. Johnson also served as vice chairman of Trump campaign’s victory committee and hosted several fundraisers for him.
The ambassador position is considered a plum job, and Trump said Thursday that Johnson would be “going to St. James” — a reference to the Court of St James.
Johnson reportedly plans to shift ownership of the team to his younger brother, Christopher Wold Johnson, in a move that might elicit cheers from Jets fans — no matter their political leanings — who have been dismayed with the direction of the team the past several seasons. We have no idea how Woody Johnson will fare as ambassador, but it might serve Trump well if Johnson fares better than he has as an NFL team owner.
Johnson is likely to be a big figure as the NFL increases its reach overseas, specifically into England, where four London games are on the schedule for the 2017 season. Could the NFL one day land a franchise in England? If so, Johnson would figure to be involved in the process, if that occurs, over the next four years and perhaps beyond.
It also wouldn’t be the least bit shocking to see the Jets featured in more London games going forward. To date, the Jets have appeared in one game in the NFL’s International Series — 2014 against the Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium — but could end up being fixtures there, much like the Jacksonville Jaguars have become, as more games are likely to be added.
Although the appointment might seem odd to some, it’s very common for high-profile donors to earn posts with Western allies such as the U.K. Johnson will be replacing Matthew Barzun, who served as President Barack Obama’s national finance chairman in 2012.
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