Editor’s note : This is the first in a series of six that shows how professional sports owners in America contribute to political campaigns, why they spend millions in space, and what that financial strength means if athletes stay active in their own sports campaigns.
According to a study conducted by ESPN in collaboration with FiveThirtyEight, owners of U.S. professional sports facilities have contributed nearly $47 million to federal elections since 2015, including $10 million for national elections and $1.9 million for democratic purposes in the 2020 election cycle.
This strong republican economy is in line with homeowners’ spending at the 2018 and 2016 federal elections. An extensive search of the campaign finance database of the Federal Election Commission of major, controlling, joint owners and commissioners of the NBA, NHL, WNBA, MLB and NASCAR shows that this deep bag sent $34.2 million (72.9 percent) to Republican campaigns or super-parliamentary committees that support purely Republican causes, compared to $10.1 million (21.5 percent) to Democrats in the last three elections. Less than 6% of the contributions were allocated to non-partisan or non-partisan beneficiaries.
The study covers more than 160 owners and assignees and includes 125 teams, although none of these lists can be exhaustive. Only the current owners of each competition were registered and only their contributions during participation in their franchise. Spouses and parents were not included unless they also played a controlling role in the ownership group. If the deposit was submitted by the owner but could not be confirmed, it was not taken into account. And like many millionaires and billionaires, homeowners have many ways to hide their political costs.
Below are some of the larger extracts from these data. And the show will be full in the next few days:
Modern sports real estate has developed into an exclusive club with entrance fees in the eight and nine-digit ranges. Redundant Americans who can afford these allowances tend to deform older, whiter, more numerous men. As political donors, these owners are usually PMOs.
Of the 160 owners and commissioners in the ESPN database, 74 gave most of their public money to Republican campaigns, 48 gave most of their money to Democrats, and the rest put most of their money into deals that are not entirely in line with one party or the other.
However, although this general summary is interesting, the message begins to become clearer when we look at the larger political donations of this group. There are 40 homeowners who have donated at least $100,000 to Republican business in six years, compared to 23 homeowners who have more than $100,000 for Democrats, which has contributed to this distribution:
In general, the distribution of contributions to the election cycle for the owners and commissioners of these leagues is given here:
- 2016 : 12.940.514 Republican | $ 4.065.093 Democrat
- 2018 : 11.282.570 Republicans | 4.174.212 Democrats
- 2020 : 10.022.931 Republicans | 1.874.333 Democrats
It is important to note that not all data on the 2020 election cycle are public at the time of publication. Some of the largest super commissions have only provided the Securities and Exchange Commission with data on individual depositors as at 30 September, which means that their latest deposits are not included in our final figures.
If we take a closer look at the data, we will see that the federal contributions in every division, except the WNBA, are in red:
Overall, 51.7 percent of all deposits by WNBA owners were made by Democrats, 42.3 percent – by Republicans. And of the $1.3 million that the owners of WNBA gave to the Republicans, 65.5% came from co-owner Atlanta Dream and Senator Kelly Loffler (R-Ga.).
Extended to all the competitions in our study, you will find here their total number for each competition over a period of six years:
- MLB: 15.181.761 Republican | $ 5.184.604 Democrat
- THE NBA: 8.372.300 Republicans | 2.641.487 Democrats
- NHL: 7.087.116 Republicans | 1.726.733 Democrats
- NFL: 5.032.470 Republicans | 873.500 Democrats
- WNBA: 1.338.459 Republicans | 1.634.153 Democrats
- NASCAR: 576,110 Republican | 93,983 Democrat
The conservative tendency of the owners also extends to the current presidential cycle. The Americans gave similar amounts to Joe Biden and President Donald Trump, but the owners gave more to Trump, according to the database.
Thirteen owners contributed directly to the Trump or Trump Super-ECCP campaign during the 2020 election cycle, contributing $1,746,423. This list of owners contains :
- Bill Foley (Vegas Golden Knights), Bill Hornbuckle (Las Vegas Aces), Charles Johnson (San Francisco Giants), Dan Devos (Orlando Magic), Jack Roche (NASCAR), James Dolan (New York Knicks and New York Rangers) Kelly Loffler (Atlanta Dream), Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals), Peter Carmanos (Carolina Hurricanes), Robert Plummer (Los Angeles Dodgers), Roger Penske, Tilman Fertitta (Houston Rocket) and Todd Rachitis (Chicago Cubs).
On the other hand, 20 owners contributed directly to Biden’s or Biden’s Super OKP, albeit in smaller quantities, with a total deposit of $405,745. The Biden participants include
- Arthur Blank (Atlanta Falcons), Arthur J. Clinton (Atlanta Falcons), Arthur J. Clinton (Atlanta Falcons). Rooney II (Pittsburgh Steelers), Billy Jean King (Dodgers), David Blitzer (Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils), David Bonderman (Seattle Kraken), Herbert Fritch (Nashville Predators), Herbert Simon (Indiana Pacers and Fever), Ilana Kloss (Dodgers), James Dinan (Milwaukee Bucks), Jeff Dickerson (Spire Motorsports), Jim Polad (Minnesota Twins), John Rogers (Chicago Sky), Laura Ricketts (Cubs), Mark Lasry (Bucks), Mary Kelly (Denver Broncos), Michael Alter, Peter Guber (Golden State Warriors and Dodgers), Tom Werner (Boston Red Sox), Zygi Wilf (Minnesota Vikings) and Hornbuckle.
— Kirk Goldsberry
A relatively small group of donors accounts for a significant proportion of the total number of donations. Forty owners represent more than $40 million, or more than 85% of all contributions. And if you look closely at these big earnings, you can clearly see how loyal they are: 77.7% of this $40 million went to business or to Republican candidates, while 18.8% – to Democrats.
Here the political power of the consumer is concentrated among the American professional sportsmen. Here’s the full list:
- Bill Foley (Knight), Charles Johnson (Giants), Dan DeVos (Magic), Dan Gilbert (Horsemen), Dan Snyder (Washington), David Tapper (Panther), David Bonderman (Octopus), E. Stanley and Anne Cronk (Nuggetts/Rams/Lavina), Edward Glaser (Bookmakers), Fred Wilpon (Mets), Herbert Simon (Pace/Fever), James Dinan (Bax), James Dolan (Knicks/Rangers), Janice McNair (Texas), Jeremy and Jerry Jacobs (Brownes), Jerry Jones (Cowboys), Jerry Rainsdorf (Bull/White Sox), Jim Polad (Gemini), Jimmy and Susan Haslam (Brownes), Jody and Paul Allen (Blazers/Hawks), Josh Harris (76 people/demons), Kelly Loffler (dream), Ken Kendrick (diamonds), Laura Ricketts (bears), Magic Johnson (Dodgers/Sparks), Mickey Arison (heat), Peter Angeles (Orioles), Peter Carmanos (hurricanes), Philip Anschutz (kings), Ray Davis (Rangers), Robert Castellini (Reds), Roger Pensche (Pensche Team), Ron Burkle (Penguins), Stephen Ross (Dolphins), Steve Tish (Giants), Ted Leonsis (Magician) and Tilman Fertitta (Rockets).
And if we isolate from this group only the donations for large cards over $100,000, a familiar picture emerges. More than 63% of the $47 million in the database, which contains nearly 3,000 donations, came from more than 100 donations distributed among these 40 owners, and 79% of these funds went to national causes.
No matter how you spin it, the big choice is clear: The biggest political donors prefer red to blue. — Goldberry
Data at owner level
This table shows the total contributions from each owner and commissioner in our database for the last three election cycles, grouped by political party. Note that some family members appear together and that contributions are only included when the owners were involved in the team. More information can be found here.