The National Football League’s political muscle extends to the halls of Congress. For those who think sports and politics are separate entities, a look at the NFL Political Action Committee makes it apparent that the lines between our nation’s most beloved sports and the country’s leadership are blurry.
Concussion congressmen get the campaign money
For politicians, the campaign and fundraising season begins now. All eyes are on reelection in 2018, and like most businesses seeking influence using war chests full of money, the NFL is getting on the action through its Gridiron Political Action Committee (NFL PAC), the league’s secretive political arm.
According to OpenSecrets.com, 8 of the 32 Congressmen and women that have so far received campaign money for the 2018 cycle serve on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The committee is investigating the links between football and concussions and is seeking to establish laws in these areas.
Multiple requests to reach the NFL for comment on the PAC were denied or ignored, but the money that’s already been dished out raises concerns.
Publicly, the NFL no longer funds the government research grant that the National Institute of Health was awarded to study the football to concussion phenomena. They cut their funding in August of this year, presumably because of the biased optics of having a league fund a study that could contribute to its downfall. The backdoor PAC money can help fill the void of influence the league has over the legal outcomes of the NIH and Energy and Commerce study.
This political game isn’t new to the NFL. Last year, a study from MapLight.com revealed the NFL PAC’s history of pay-for-play methods.
In 2016, “analysis of campaign finance data has found the NFL’s Gridiron PAC has given money to 41 of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s 54 members.” Since 2008, around 17 percent of the PAC’s campaign contributions — or $292,000 — has gone to those lawmakers.
More to come in 2018
The NFL PAC has only spent $73,000 on candidates for this upcoming election cycle, but this number is expected to rise, as is the influence the league is expected to have over the Energy and Commerce committee.
The PAC mainly receives its donations from NFL owners, executives and their wives. In 2017, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and his wife donated $10,000 to the PAC. The Packers’ president Mark Murphy and his wife matched that contribution this year as well.