NFL: Political Donation History, Campaign-Giving Motivations of Professional Sports Team Owners

by Quentin Blount
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Wealthy team owners in the NFL and other American professional sports have donated more than $47 million to campaigns during federal elections since 2015.

Sports owners have contributed at least $14.6 million to various candidates, campaigns, and political action committees. The Republican Party has been the recipient of more than $10 million of that funding. Conversely, team owners donated just $1.9 million to Democratic causes. The remaining contributions went to bipartisan or unaffiliated recipients.

Nearly two-thirds of that $14.6 million total can be traced back to a select group of just 10 owners. These big-money donors have given between $375,000 and $3.25 million in the past 20 months alone. Those figures are per USA TODAY Sports.

10 Top Political Spenders Among Sports Ownership

1. Charles B. Johnson, San Francisco Giants. Charles Johnson has made more than $3.25 million in federal contributions to Republican campaigns to date. This makes him far and away the largest political donor among sports owners during this election cycle.

2. Woody Johnson, New York Jets. The NFL owner has donated nearly $2 million during this election cycle, solely to Republican campaigns and causes.

3. Dan DeVos, Orlando Magic. Since the start of 2019, DeVos’ political spending has topped $1.2 million. All but $10,000 of that amount has went to right-leaning political action committees or candidates. DeVos is the brother-in-law of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

4. James Dolan, New York Knicks and Rangers. Dolan has donated more than $715,000 to the president and the Republican Party since the beginning of 2019.

5. Kelly Loeffler, Atlanta Dream. Loeffler has donated more than $527,000 on the federal level. More than half of that amount went to a Trump super PAC.

6. John C. Malone, Atlanta Braves. Malone made a $500,000 donation to “1820 PAC” during this election cycle. He also made monthly donations to Trump in late 2019.

7. Ken Kendrick, Arizona Diamondbacks. Kendrick has racked up more than $451,000 in federal campaign contributions during this election cycle. All but $2,500 of that amount went to Republicans.

8. Philip Anschutz, Los Angeles Kings and Galaxy. Anschutz has given more than $411,000 to Republican candidates during the current election cycle.

9. Jerry Reinsdorf, Chicago Bulls and White Sox. Reinsdorf is one of several owners historically that give contributions to both Republicans and Democrats. During this election cycle, he’s given $252,000 to the GOP. He’s also given $100,000 to a super PAC called “Illinois Democrats for Change.”

10. Dee and Jimmy Haslam, Cleveland Browns. Dee Haslam edges out her husband Jimmy with $375,400 in federal political contributions to his $355,000. The NFL Haslam family donated exclusively to Republican candidates.

Significantly More Money Goes to Republican Politicians

Without a doubt, the biggest political spenders in the NFL and in pro sports prefer red to blue. Of the $47 million contributed since 2015, nearly 78 percent of that $40 million went to Republican causes or candidates. Roughly 19 percent went to Democrats.

The numbers are clear no matter which way you slice it. Federal contributions in each league lean red, except for in the WNBA.

In the WBNA, numbers were much closer. 51.7 percent of contributions by WNBA owners went to Democrats. Only 42.3 percent of donations went to Republicans. Furthermore, of the $1.3 million contributed by WNBA owners to Republicans, 65.5 percent comes from Atlanta Dream owner Kelly Loeffler.

Conversely, just 20 owners have made contributions directly to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden or Biden’s super PACs. However, these donations come in smaller totals, with overall contributions equaling $405,745. The Biden contributors include Arthur Blank (Atlanta Falcons), Arthur J. Rooney II (Pittsburgh Steelers), Zygi Wilf (Minnesota Vikings), Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss (Los Angeles Dodgers), Herbert Simon (Indiana Pacers and Fever), Jim Pohlad (Minnesota Twins) and Tom Werner (Boston Red Sox), among a few others.

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