Political Contributions by Pro Sports Owners Revealed in New Report

Sports have often been an entertainment outlet for people to come together and forget about the outside world. Fans come together for one team. Not Democrat or Republican, but for Bears, Tigers, Raiders, Gators and any assortment of nicknames and colors.

In today's society, politics have infiltrated athletics—both professional and amatuer. Athletes use social media to express their personal political stances, and teams and leagues have used subtle protests to bring light on political topics-of-the-day happening in the world.

Some professional franchises have offered their large arenas as voting venues and the NFL has promotional commercials to encourage people to vote.

Then there are the owners of such franchises, who reap the rewards from their teams—whether they're good or bad. Sports owners are typically less vocal than players when it comes to voicing their political stances. Instead of using a social medium to claim who they'll vote for, they simply donate to a candidate, party or political action committee (PAC).

Trump and NASCAR Team Owners
U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump talks with Richard Childress and Roger Penske prior to the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 16, 2020 in Daytona Beach, Florida. Penske and Childress have both donated thousands of dollars to Republican candidates. In fact, most political donations from sports owners and commissioners across six pro leagues go toward Republicans over Democrats. Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

However, once a donation is made, it can't be deleted from record like a social media post that hadn't been screenshot yet. Although, it should be noted that some owners donated to both parties, and many donated to bi-partisan campaigns or issues.

ESPN and FiveThirtyEight compiled a list of 160 wealthy sports owners from six major sports leagues over the last 4-plus years, and then statistically broke down how these owners are spending their money—politically.

The overall results aren't that surprising, but some individual donations are a little eye-catching. And if one were to judge the political leanings based solely on donations by owners and commissioners, it would be mostly a red world. The data unveiled shows mostly conservative leanings by leaders in the sports world.

The study looks at donations made in 2016, 2018 and 2020 from owners of teams from the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball (MLB), National Hockey League, NASCAR and WNBA. Of those six leagues, only the WNBA gave more money (percentage-wise) to Democrats.

The NFL and NASCAR had the highest percentage of donations to Republicans, followed by the NHL and then NBA and MLB, which were almost equal, but still donating a majority to Republicans.

Here's a quick breakdown of how league commissioners and team owners have donated in the last three election cycles, including the 2018 midterm:

$10,022,931 to Republicans
$1,874,333 to Democrats

$11,282,570 to Republican
$4,174,212 to Democrats

$12,940,514 to Republicans
$4,065,093 to Democrats

In those three cycles, here are the totals:
$34,246,015 to Republicans (77.2%)
$10,113,638 to Democrats (22.8%)

The most donations over a six-year portion of the study belonged to the MLB with a little more than $20 million. The NBA was next, and NASCAR was last. Here's a rundown of the six-year donations:

Major League Baseball ($20,366,365)
$15,181,761 Republican (75%)
$5,184,604 Democrat (25%)

NBA ($11,013,787)
$8,372,300 Republican (76%)
$2,641,487 Democrat (24%)

NHL ($8,813,849)
$7,087,116 Republican (80%)
$1,726,733 Democrat (20%)

NFL ($5,905,970)
$5,032,470 Republican (85%)
$873,500 Democrat (15%)

WNBA ($2,972,612)
$1,338,459 Republican (45%)
$1,634,153 Democrat (55%)

NASCAR (670,093)
$576,110 Republican (86%)
$93,983 Democrat (14%)

Editor's pick

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts