The National Wrestling Hall of Fame announced on Wednesday that United States Military Academy graduate and former U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant Stephen Cannon will be honored as the organization’s Outstanding American for 2019.
The Hall of Fame’s Outstanding American award is presented to those individuals who have used the disciplines of wrestling to launch notable careers in other walks of life, such as science and technology, business and industry, government and the military, and the arts and humanities.
Cannon joins Distinguished Members Carl Adams, Rich Lorenzo, Brandon Paulson and Townsend Saunders, Meritorious Official David Errett, Order of Merit recipient Dr. David Curby and Medal of Courage recipient James McCloughan, who were announced on October 29.
The Class of 2019 will be inducted at the 43rd Annual Honors Weekend on May 31-June 1, 2019 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. For more information on Honors Weekend, please telephone (405) 377-5243.
“Steve Cannon epitomizes what the honor of Outstanding American symbolizes to our Hall of Fame, sport and nation,” said Lee Roy Smith, Executive Director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. “He has distinguished his life by example and is the type of role model we can hope future generations will seek to emulate.”
Cannon was captain of both the football and wrestling teams at Ramapo High School in Wyckoff, New Jersey, earning All-State honors in football and All-County honors in wrestling. He lettered two years in wrestling at the United States Military Academy and scored a perfect score on every Army Physical Fitness Test for four years. Leading into his senior year, he was selected to lead Cadet Basic Training and later earned the position of Cadet Regimental Commander for 4th Regiment, placing 1,000 cadets under Cannon’s leadership.
Cannon, who graduated with honors and received his bachelor’s degree in economics from West Point, passed U.S. Army Ranger School and officer training before being assigned to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment along the West German-Czech border. He was on the border when the Cold War ended in 1989.
After completing his military service, Cannon returned to the United States in 1991 and began his career in the automotive industry as the assistant to the President and CEO of Mercedes-Benz North America, the same CEO role he would attain nearly 20 years later. He moved to Germany and became the first American to join a team tasked with the design, development, production and launch of the M Class, which would be the first Mercedes-Benz series to be manufactured in the United States. He then led a team that chose Tuscaloosa, Alabama, as the manufacturing site. After the successful launch of the M Class, Cannon became director of marketing for debis Financial Services and later left Mercedes-Benz to serve as principal for The Richards Group, the largest independent full-service advertising agency in the United States.
Cannon returned to Mercedes-Benz USA in 2007 as chief marketing officer and he and his team moved the brand into some of the most prestigious platforms in sports, including The Masters, The U.S. Open tennis tournament and the PGA Championship. In 2011, Cannon was named CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, becoming only the second American to lead the company. Under his leadership, Mercedes-Benz USA experienced double-digit growth and for the first time in the company’s history achieved a No. 1 ranking in customer satisfaction by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. He also oversaw the relocation of Mercedes-Benz USA’s headquarters from New Jersey to metro Atlanta.
He was named CEO of AMB Group, LLC, which is the parent company of Arthur M. Blank’s for-profit businesses in December of 2015 and began his duties in February of 2016. Cannon oversees all business operations of the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons; Atlanta United of Major League Soccer; Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a multi-purpose retractable roof stadium that is home of the Falcons and United; and retailer PGA TOUR Superstore. He is also on the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s board of directors.
Opened in 2017, Mercedes-Benz Stadium has played host to sports and entertainment events of every kind and will be in the world spotlight as host of the Super Bowl in 2019 and the NCAA Men’s Final Four in 2020. MBS was previously the site of the College Football Playoff Championship game in 2018 and is the first professional sports stadium in North America to achieve LEED Platinum Certification by the United States Green Building Council. Mercedes-Benz Stadium has the lowest concessions prices in professional sports and boasts a top overall ranking in the NFL and MLS voice of the fan surveys for quality, variety, speed of service and value. The MBS Food & Beverage Experience was honored as Sports Breakthrough of the Year by Sports Business Journal in 2018 and several professional and collegiate teams and venues across the country have since followed its lead with dramatic food and beverage pricing adjustments.
Cannon and members of his West Point’s Class of 1986 founded the Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund in 2014. What began as a small effort to help one fallen classmate’s family has grown into an organization that has raised more than $17 million. The organization honors military service and sacrifice by providing scholarships to veterans and military family members, particularly children of our nation’s fallen and disabled. A tireless champion of America’s armed forces and their families, Cannon also serves on the national board of directors for TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) and has led efforts to make the Atlanta Falcons’ military outreach efforts the benchmark in the NFL. In 2018, Cannon and Falcons coach Dan Quinn led the first NFL team-directed USO Tour, visiting soldiers at various bases throughout Iraq and Kuwait.