From big checks written by team owners and players to high-profile events at stadiums and even during games, the National Football League plays in tight formation with America’s political fundraising operatives.
That’s not likely to change, despite the flood of bad news for the league, ranging from accusations of racism, homophobia and domestic and child abuse.
“No absolutely not,” emailed one Republican fundraiser when asked if it was time to advise candidates against taking checks that could in someway be traced back to the NFL.
Still, the league’s image, once one of the best in professional sports, has taken a major beating, starting with the negative reaction some coaches and players had to the drafting of the first openly gay player last spring, to the ongoing controversy over Washington’s name and a host of domestic violence and child abuse complaints against marquee players. The NFL’s top brass have been playing defense since the first kickoff, and politicians, even those who’ve benefited from the league’s political activities, are starting to join the growing chorus of critics.
But the bad news isn’t likely to stop the close relationship between political fundraising and the NFL, observers said.
“It is the best fundraiser you can ever throw because it can’t miss,” said Ford O’Connell, a Washington-based Republican strategist. “The NFL has such wide appeal across party lines. What is female viewership even with this nonsense? It’s up 40%. Football is so ubiquitous in American life it’s hard to see how [a fundraiser] would be a hindrance unless you took money from one of these players.”