NFL Owners, Executives Contribute In Run-Up to Labor Dispute

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The Super Bowl may have been the most watched television program of all time, but many inside the National Football League and in Congress will be paying more attention to the league’s upcoming labor dispute with the NFL Player’s Association. Both the NFL and the union have stepped up their Washington lobbying presence over the past few years as Congress may get involved in the dispute. When it comes to campaign contributions, however, the team owners and executives are dominating the playing field.

Since 2007, NFL employees, executives, players and coaches have contributed a total of $1,285,940 to candidates for federal political office and the official NFL political action committee. According to data acquired from the Center for Responsive Politics, team owners, executives and top employees made 79% of those contributions ($1,021,436). Players make up only 9% of the contributions ($114,764).

Congress could get involved in the labor dispute, particularly if a lockout looks likely. Curtis Eichelberger and Jonathan D. Salant of Bloomberg explain where Congress’ power may lie:

If talks break down, members of Congress may have leverage because lawmakers can revise U.S. antitrust statutes, including a 1961 law allowing NFL owners to jointly sell broadcasting rights.

“That’s the nuclear weapon in the arsenal,” said Representative Linda Sanchez, a California Democrat and former union official who sits on the House Judiciary Committee.

The scope of antitrust restrictions on the NFL was argued on Jan. 13 at the U.S. Supreme Court in a case about an exclusive license with Adidas AG’s Reebok to sell hats decorated with team logos. The union filed a brief opposing the NFL’s bid for broader antitrust protection in areas such as labor relations.

Whatever the court decides, Congress always has the option of changing the law as it would apply in the future.

The majority of owner and executive contributions went to Republican candidates and political committees. Fifty-eight percent went to Republicans, twenty-eight percent to Democrats and the rest to the NFL PAC. Sixty-nine percent of player contributions went to Democrats and thirty-one percent to Republicans. Barack Obama was the largest recipient of contributions from players.

The top recipient of team owner and executive contributions were Republican national committees ($196,650). Democratic national committees were second ($116,200). Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign received the most contributions of any candidate committee ($69,200). Rep. Tom Rooney, of the Pittsburgh Steelers owning Rooney family, received the second most ($37,600).

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