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Mark Wahlberg’s interest in Crew SC may in fact be genuine

What seemed like a one-off question could actually have some legs.

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If you are a Columbus Crew SC fan — and why would you be reading this if you weren’t? — you are aware of the potential for the Black & Gold to move to Austin, Texas thanks to investor/operator Anthony Precourt’s long-standing desire to have a team in the city. For those of you that spend a lot of time on social media, you probably are also aware that actor Mark Wahlberg was asked about buying the team on Monday and expressed interest.

First, some background. Wahlberg, who is also a movie producer and has his own fast food line, Wahlburgers, recently opened a Chevy dealership in Columbus. He was in town to visit the dealership, which he purchased in July, for the first time and that’s when the question about Crew SC was asked.

After the initial hysteria on social media died down, many viewed this as just an offhanded comment by Wahlberg. “Sure, I’ll say I’m interested in the local soccer team to local television cameras. That will be good for publicity.”

But, it seems, there may be more to this than just a one-off comment. While Precourt appears dead set on moving the team to Austin, there is a local ownership group that is attempting to purchase the team and keep it in town. That group has met with Major League Soccer, keeping hopes alive in Columbus that MLS’s first franchise will stay in its only home in its 22-year existence. There’s even serious discussion to build a downtown stadium by where both the Columbus Bluejackets and Columbus Clippers play.

So what makes us think Wahlberg could actually be interested in getting involved in this potential new ownership group? Well, he was asked about his comments this week on a Cleveland radio show, a place where he is not pandering to the locals. Wahlberg took things to another level in his comments.

“So we were actually at the dealership, kind of talking about how excited we were to be in town and creating some buzz and excitement around the opening and then somebody had asked us, they told us that the team was for sale and said would I be interested in buying them,” Wahlberg explained. “I said I would be interested in taking a look. And just yesterday, the guy who’s leading the investment group contacted my partner, Jay Feldman, and I got a text from Jay that they spoke last night. So I haven’t spoken to him yet today but I’ll be following up with him today. It’s certainly something that I’m interested in.”

While Crew SC fans are very much hoping for local ownership so they don’t have to go through another 10 months similar to the last where Precourt — who lives in the Bay Area — has avoided his team locally while focusing very hard on Austin despite claiming parallel paths initially, Wahlberg could be interesting. He could be part of the already established ownership group that would bring the kind of name recognition to the Columbus franchise that it has really never had.

“I think soccer’s growing in the States,” Wahlberg continued. “The World Cup was fantastic for soccer, the exposure it created, especially here. So I wouldn’t say we’re closing in on a deal or anything but I’m interested and if it’s a good opportunity, I’d like to be a part of it. I mean, I’m a part owner in a cricket league in the Caribbean. And Bob Kraft is a very good friend of mine. He owns the New England Revolution, so I could get a lot of insight from him.”

A celebrity owner, or partial owner, would not be unprecedented in MLS. Retired boxer Oscar De La Hoya is partial owner of the Houston Dynamo. Actor Will Ferrell, former professional baseball player Nomar Garciaparra, retired LA Lakers star Magic Johnson and former U.S. women’s World Cup winner Mia Hamm are all part of the ownership group of Los Angeles Football Club.

While this all sounds good in principle, there are still a lot of details that have to be figured out before Crew fans can plan on getting Wahlburgers at MAPFRE Stadium. Number one would be getting the league to commit to the city and facilitating a sale.

This is certainly a wrinkle no one saw coming, but we’re going to keep this in the “skeptical” pile for the time being.