Determining if Chiefs owner Clark Hunt is really cheap amid recent backlash

Clark Hunt's spending in all areas of the team does not reflect an owner who is serious about rewarding the players or sustaining that success.

AFC Championship - Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs
AFC Championship - Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

For the most part, the Kansas City Chiefs organization has been praised as being one of, if not, the most well-run organizations in all of the league as well as major sports. The transparency and trust between the owner, general manager, and coaching staff appears top-notch on the surface and everyone seems to be pulling in the same direction.

That includes Chiefs owner and CEO Clark Hunt, who has seen his team win three Super Bowls in five seasons while enjoying the most successful era in Kansas City Chiefs history. Hunt seems to say all the right things, too. By the same token, you won't hear too many people who have bad things to say about Clark Hunt. That is, except for anonymous players in the NFLPA's annual anonymous player survey.

For the second consecutive year, the NFLPA publicized their report card results for each NFL franchise. Out of all 32 NFL teams, the Chiefs ranked 31st overall, and owner Clark Hunt ranked dead last out of all owners. In additions, Kansas City ranked 31st in nutrition, 28th in locker room, 32nd in training staff, 26th in food and cafeteria, and 18th in treatment of families.

The lone area in which the Chiefs were even above average was, unsurprisingly, the coaching staff. Andy Reid and company were given an A+. Everything outside of that was pretty dreadful. Since these results have come out, there have been a lot of questions being raised about Clark Hunt and his willingness to invest in the team and its facilities. So, what's the story? Is Clark Hunt actually a cheap owner?

Clark Hunt and the Chiefs' facility concerns

Let's start with those NFLPA report card results. Given how successful and cohesive the Chiefs organization is and appears to be, those grades have been met with a lot of skepticism from fans. For example, the Chiefs were rated as having the worst training staff in the league. At the same time, you constantly hear about how great Rick Burkholder is as the team's head trainer. The Chiefs have also consistently been one of the healthiest teams in the league year in and year out.

However, those grades don't necessarily mean that the trainers that the Chiefs do have are bad at their job. A little bit of digging would reveal that the main complaint surrounding Kansas City's training staff is that they're understaffed and players feel like they can't get seen on a given day. That's a major problem.

Another misconception is the complaints about the locker room facilities contributing to the Chiefs' poor facilities grades. Many are quick to point out that the stadium locker room was just recently renovated, but the complaints are about the practice locker rooms—the ones that are used by the players on a day-to-day basis as opposed to the game day locker rooms that are used only several times a year.

There have been a lot of people who have tried to dance around the poor grades or spin them as nothing significant, and that's easy to do when the survey results are anonymous so you don't get the same effect as if Patrick Mahomes came out and said, "Hey, these facilities suck". Although, we got some tidbits that weren't too far off from that in an article done by Nate Taylor and Kalyn Kahler of "The Athletic" who did some investigating on the Chiefs' poor survey grades.

The article kicks off with quotes from quarterback Patrick Mahomes from a commercial shoot for the cellular company, T-Mobile, in the team's indoor practice facility last summer where there was no air conditioning.

Now former Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay, who signed a free agent deal with the New Orleans Saints this offseason also said that he "Loves Clark Hunt as a person", but that he felt like that it was time for a facilities upgrade.

Not only have the Chiefs players feel like facility upgrades are needed, but there also appears to be some disconnect between the organization and players on when they were or were not supposed to happen. According to the NFLPA survey results, Chiefs players claim they were promised a new locker room following the 2022 season, only to come back to the same locker rooms with only new chairs.

Chiefs owner Clark Hunt followed up an interview by saying he never promised the players new locker rooms and that it was a miscommunication, but the team will continue to invest in the facilities in the future.

"We are making some pretty significant investments in the training facility this year and we'll continue to do that" said Hunt to the Athletic.

Regardless, whatever upgrades that were or were not promised sound like they need to happen and Kansas City is way behind the eight ball compared to the rest of the league. The back-to-back Super Bowl champions deserve better facilities. It's as simple as that. They don't even have to have the very best, state-of-the-art facilities, but better than the bottom five in the league would be nice.

The other thing, too, is when you look around at what the Chiefs organization was prior to Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes showing up, these survey results and the reflection on Hunt that comes with them shouldn't be all that surprising. The Chiefs were a mess before Andy Reid fell into the lap of the organization, and Reid was the only redeeming category in the NFLPA survey results.

When you're winning, all of those things are put on the back burner and are easy to forget about, but it's not good to have that reputation of being an organization that is carried by the head coach and quarterback and on-field results. Because when that's one day no longer the case, what is attracting free agents? What draws players to wanting to play for the Kansas City Chiefs?

Issues with cash spending?

Facilities and staff investments are just one component of the Clark Hunt conversation, too. That's not even addressing his cash-spending concerns when it comes to improving the roster.

Now, there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of cap space and how it works and many are going to read the prior sentence and think, "This isn't baseball, the owner doesn't determine how much money the team spends on free agents", and while that's mostly true, there's a concept called cash over cap spending that ties back into Clark Hunt's willingness to spend.

Think of cap space as a 4-5 year credit apparatus—like a credit card. Teams have cap space constraints they have to work under and you have to remain cap-compliant at nearly all times, but the cap is money that is yet to actually be paid for the most part. Cash spending is how much money is going to the players at a given time. Those are the checks that Clark Hunt is writing.

Things like contract conversions, bonuses, and void years can be used to create additional cap space, but that money is coming from Clark Hunt. That's why teams like the New Orleans Saints, for example, are always in the negative for cap space, but are players in free agency every year. It's because their owner willingly pays the tab so that the front office can continue to add talent.

It is thought that the Chiefs have a self-imposed cash spending budget put in place by Clark Hunt and that limits Brett Veach in some areas. That idea is also backed up by the fact that the Chiefs are ranked 24th in cash-over-cap spending in the last five years combined. They also were one of the very few teams last year that spent below the average percentage of cap. Kansas City has also signed players to abnormally high cap hits over the years for accounting purposes which seems like an excuse to not add more talent mostly because the average fan doesn't completely understand cap mechanics.

Many will say, "Well that strategy seems to be working out for them", and it's understandable that Hunt would continue to hold the same philosophy after the team won three Super Bowls in five years with the current spending plan, but that feels more like using Patrick Mahomes as a cash-saving tactic. This team is on the verge of doing something that has never been done in a three-year span. If that doesn't motivate Clark Hunt to open up the checkbook even just a little bit for the betterment of the team, then why be in that position?

Yes, he opened up the wallet for Patrick Mahomes and most recently Chris Jones. What was the alternative there, though? That's Clark Hunt throwing a bone to the fan base, but when you look up and down the roster, the cash spending for players isn't overwhelming.

The L'Jarius Sneed situation is also one that is worth monitoring for fans as concerns over Clark Hunt's spending rise. They traded Sneed to the Tennessee Titans last week in a move that freed up a ton of cap space. That said, they could've afforded to keep Sneed on the tag next year. It's understandable that they didn't want to, and many of us understand the trade, but the question is, what do you do with the money now? If the Chiefs turn around and use that cap space on some complimentary pieces then that's fine. If they do next to nothing with it, then it will be a potential indicator that this was a cash-saving move for Clark Hunt who didn't want to pay the franchise tag money.

A look at Arrowhead improvements

Lastly, there are those upcoming stadium renovations that were conveniently dropped the same day the NFLPA report cards came out. The problem is they're going to cost over $800 million and Hunt is only offering to pay $300 million of it. The rest is expected to be paid for by Kansas City taxpayers, in which they had the opportunity to say yes or no to in a public vote this past Tuesday. To Hunt's dismay, Jackson County residents voted a resounding "NO!" to the extension of the 3/8's of a cent sales tax.

It's not exactly a shock that taxpayers don't want to publicly fund stadium renovations for an owner who's family is worth billions of dollars, and many were not impressed with the plans the Chiefs presented along with the Kansas City Royals, which did not even specifically highlight any improvements to the players' facilities, but this leaves Hunt with an interesting decision to make.

Hunt could either continue to work with Jackson County to try and present a better plan that would get approved by residents, or he could start to shop the franchise around for when the team's lease with Arrowhead Stadium expires in 2031. However, even if Hunt were to do that, there would be a lot of financial hurdles including a relocation fee that would exceed far more than the amount that Hunt was willing to pay for Arrowhead Stadium renovation plans. It's hard to imagine Clark Hunt would want to leave Arrowhead to begin with given that it was his father's dream and Hunt takes pride in his family's history, but when you add in the financial piece it makes it a tad more unlikely.

Either way, it's a situation worth monitoring going forward and it will be intriguing to see just how hellbent Hunt is on getting those renovations or a new stadium and how much of his own money he's willing to contribute in order to make it happen.

Ultimately, when you consider that success is at an all-time high, the Chiefs have the face of the league on their team, and Clark Hunt is receiving record profits coming off a historic run and an influx of new fans, his spending in all areas of the team do not reflect an owner who is serious about rewarding the players or sustaining that success.