He is probably best known as the former owner of the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League. During his twenty-two years controlling the team, they won five Super Bowls and had the winningest decade in football history. He was beloved as an owner, many of his former players have donned him to be the most generous owner in NFL history. Debartolo Jr., has been a semi finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a Contributor to the game.
DeBartolo was implicated in the corruption case of former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in return for his testimony against Edwards, admitting Edwards asked for and received from him the sum of $400,000 to gain a casino license, which was never awarded to him. DeBartolo was fined and barred from active control of the 49ers for one year.
That legal battle led to another, and as part of a settlement, DeBartolo gave up control of the 49ers in 2000, ceding control of the team to his sister Marie Denise DeBartolo York. York had previously been the president of the DeBartolo family-owned Pittsburgh Penguins, In 1991 he arranged to sell the NHL franchise to assist the DeBartolo Corporation in the aftermath of the real estate collapse of 1987. The many shopping malls were sold to Simon in 1996, which operated for a few years as Simon DeBartolo Group.
DeBartolo Jr. has three daughters, Lisa, Tiffanie and Nicole. His son-in-law, married to Lisa DeBartolo, is Don Miggs the leader singer of the popular pop-rock band Miggs.
In 2008, DeBartolo Jr. was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame.