Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Game of Politics

     Throughout this election season, we have seen too many endorsements by celebrities in an attempt to bring the brains and/or beauty to the candidate’s ticket, using fame rather than facts for political gain. But who brings the brawn to the ticket? Whose endorsement will, in all honesty, draw men to a ticket? Athletes may let their play do the talking; however, they are often unafraid to voice their opinions with their money and platforms.

     Recently, two of the most influential people in the NFL, Broncos Vice President and legendary quarterback John Elway and New York Jets owner Woody Johnson have come out in support of Mitt Romney, both donating to his cause. Romney, interestingly, is named after a 1920s football player, perhaps that is why he has a lead over Barack Obama in NFL-related fundraising and donations! Among NFL owners, the Republican challenger and his party receive roughly 58% of all NFL political donations, most of it coming from Houston Texans owner Robert McNair Sr., the aforementioned Johnson, and the Chargers’ Alex Spanos. Among supporters of the President is Steelers Owner Dan Rooney. Rooney was actually an ardent conservative, until he, true to devious Steelers form, was offered a position as the Ambassador to Ireland-suddenly prompting a massive, Romney-esque, shift across the political spectrum. Among players however, it is important to note that the incumbent has an advantage. Despite that, many of the most talented players in the league have come out to support the GOP. Quarterback Tom Brady is believed to sympathize with the political right, and his rival, Peyton Manning, has actually donated to Republicans running for office in the past and may continue to do so. However, while the GOP, true to the stereotype, receives most of their football donations from the uber-rich, the sport leans right nonetheless.
     The NBA, on the other hand, leans farther right than any other major sports league in the United States of America. Barack Obama, who has been known to play basketball with NBA players on a court in the White House, reaps the benefit of the donations from the likes of future Hall of Famers LeBron James and Chris Paul; even playing with James midway through his term. The president also has supporters in the NBA’s administration, with commissioner David Stern among his biggest donators. Stern, despite his far-left beliefs, was surprisingly tough against the union during last year’s labor negotiations, and made waves intervening into the trade market in a way some may say Obama has with the private sector, striking down a trade sending Chris Paul to the Lakers. Obama even attended some of the US Olympic team’s games. However, among the owners, the Republican Party has received the lion’s share of contributions, though the total amount is dramatically smaller than the NFL’s. Mark Cuban, never a stranger to controversy, commented that the US was better off than it was four years ago and voted for the President in 2008, despite his admiration for conservative hero Ayn Rand. 
     Major League Baseball, like the NFL, leans to the right of the political spectrum. While both candidates are fans of their hometown teams, the Obama prefers the White Sox, and Romney the Red Sox, the bulk of funds the two receive are from other organizations. The Yankees, Giants, Rangers, Reds, Braves, and Tigers are all among most generous to politicians, and they all give at least 75% of their total donations to Republicans. Teams like the Cardinals and the Oakland Athletics embody the GOP ideals of doing more with less and efficiency as well. Taking low-cost yet effective teams to the playoffs despite claims of claims that ‘you didn’t build that,’ the Cardinals and Athletics give 98% and 74% of all donations to Republicans respectively. It is also interesting to note that the teams that lean right are also the teams that go deep in the playoffs, while the teams on the left, get knocked out early. 

     This election is likely to be the closest in decades. In a nation where conformity is key, one man’s, or woman’s, endorsement may be the key to victory. Neither candidate is a stranger to athletics; Romney ran the 2002 Winter Olympics and, true to form, turned a deficit into a surplus, and even held a football game between his staff and media reporters, while the President plays basketball with supporters and was photographed holding a baseball bat while talking to members of the Turkish Government. Romney heads into November 6, 2012 with the support from the NFL and MLB, and fittingly, the PGA, a league in which personal responsibility and honesty are key. Obama is popular among the ranks of the NBA, and even a Chicago ping-pong company. This election will be a turning point for the nation, and athletes are among the most popular and scrutinized supporters, but ultimately, their vote is no more important than anyone else’s, and we can only hope that they, and the citizens of the United States of America make the right choice this year.