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Politics & Policy

NBA Players Shower Obama with Money—While the NFL Writes Checks to the GOP

NBA Players Shower Obama with Money—While the NFL Writes Checks to the GOP

Photograph by Brendan Smialowski/The New York Times via Redux

President Obama has said few things make him happier than a good pickup game of basketball. This election season, basketball is loving him right back.

Since 2009, the league’s players, owners, and executives have contributed $2.6 million to federal campaigns, according to a report by the Center for Responsive Politics’ The bulk of those contributions—61 percent—have gone to Democrats. The NBA’s biggest donor is Commissioner David Stern, who has given $311,400 to candidates since 2009—almost all to Democrats. And don’t forget Wisconsin’s Democratic Senator Herb Kohl, who owns the Milwaukee Bucks. He’s given $147,000 to his party since 2009.

Last Thursday, Air Force One made a pit stop at the Orlando home of Dallas Mavericks guard (and former Orlando Magic star) Vince Carter, where a group of NBA executives and players held a $30,000-a-plate fundraiser in Obama’s honor. The guests gathered on Carter’s personal full-size basketball court, where the scoreboard was tied at 44, in honor of the 44th President. Among those in attendance were Stern, the L.A. Clippers’ Chris Paul, and retired legends Alonzo Mourning and Magic Johnson. LeBron James, who couldn’t be there, sent a check.

That makes the political leanings of pro basketball almost the opposite of pro football. Since 2009, NFL employees have given $2.8 million to campaigns and political action committees, about 58 percent of it to Republicans, says OpenSecrets.

As in the NBA, a few NFL team owners or execs skew the charts. If the Dems have NBA execs Stern and Stephen Pagliuca—the co-owner of the Boston Celtics is a partner at Mitt Romney’s former private equity firm Bain Capital—the GOP has energy billionaire and Houston Texans owner Robert McNair. He has donated $215,200 to political causes since 2009, almost exclusively to Republicans.

Dwoskin is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in Washington. Follow her on Twitter: @lizzadwoskin.

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