Pat Bowlen, a legendary NFL owner who led the Denver Broncos to six Super Bowls, has announced he is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and will step down from helming his beloved franchise.
The Broncos announced that team president Joe Ellis will assume control of the team so that Bowlen can focus on his health.
“It’s a really, really sad day,” Ellis said to the Denver Post. “It’s sad for his family, his wife and his seven children. It’s sad for everyone in the organization. And it’s sad for all the Bronco fans who know what Pat Bowlen meant to them as an owner. It’s a day nobody wanted to see happen.”
The ailing owner is not selling the team. Instead he is placing his ownership stake into the Pat Bowlen Trust in hopes that one of his grandchildren will eventually take over the team when old enough to do so.
“As many in the Denver community and around the National Football League have speculated, my husband, Pat, has very bravely and quietly battled Alzheimer’s disease for the last few years,” Annabel Bowlen said in a statement released on Wednesday. “He has elected to keep his condition private because he has strongly believed, and often said, ‘It’s not about me.’
“Pat has always wanted the focus to be solely on the Denver Broncos and the great fans who have supported this team with such passion during his 30 years as owner. My family is deeply saddened that Pat’s health no longer allows him to oversee the Broncos, which has led to this public acknowledgment of such a personal health condition,” she concluded.
In 2006, the NFL owner lost his mother to a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s and announced as far back as 2009 that he was experiencing short-term memory loss.
As The New York Times reports, the 70-year-old Bowlen has been reducing his role with the team for some time, though he was still a member of the NFL’s powerful broadcasting committee.
“This is a sad day for the N.F.L.,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a Wednesday statement. “From building a championship team that is a pillar of the community to his important work for the league on television and labor matters, Pat’s love of the game drove him and we have all benefited from his passion and wisdom.”
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