News and Notes

U.S. Election Edition

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As you may have heard, Election Day in the U.S. is only four days away. Most polls show that climate change ranks higher on voters’ minds than ever before. According to an October Gallup poll, 28 percent of Americans said climate change is extremely important to their voting decision¹.

With that in mind, today’s News & Notes has an electoral theme, with a Green-Sports tint: 

  • FiveThirtyEight and ESPN teamed up on a study which shows that sports team owners’ donations to the Republicans have dwarfed those going to Democrats in the 2016, 2018 and 2020 cycles.

  • On the other hand, the WNBA’s Seattle Storm endorsed Democrat Joe Biden for President.

  • If you haven’t done so, VOTE!

 

SPORTS TEAM OWNERS SUPPORT REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES

Sports team owners from the four largest North American leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) have donated four times as much to Republican causes ($10 million) as compared to Democratic causes ($1.9 million) thus far in the 2020 election cycle, according to research conducted and released by ESPN and FiveThirtyEight.

This is not only a 2020 thing.

Widening the lens to include the 2016 Presidential contest and the 2018 midterms, 77.4 percent of sports owners’ donations have gone to Republican campaigns and super PACs, compared to 22.6 percent for Democrats.

The GOP donation advantage is solid across the major U.S. professional sports leagues — Major League Baseball, NASCAR, the NBA, NFL and NHL. Only WNBA owners gave more to Democrats in 2016 and 2018. Things have flipped thus far in 2020, owing to the fact that Atlanta Dream owner and Republican U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler² is running in a special election and is funding her campaign. Major League Soccer and NWSL owners were not polled.

 

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Donations by owners of U.S. sports teams have gone to Republican candidates by wide margins since 2016, no matter the sport (Image credit: Axios; Data credit: FiveThirtyEight)

 

Is this surprising to you? It shouldn’t be. After all, the “1 percenters” who own most U.S. sports teams have cashed in over the decades from Republican “tax cuts for the rich” policies.

With that being the case, you may be asking yourself, “Why is GreenSportsBlog writing about this?”

We want to understand the donation patterns of the owners of the greenest teams in the U.S.

Do owners whose teams lead on environmental sustainability and climate support the party led by a President who calls climate change a hoax and who has been the most hostile POTUS to the environment in over 100 years?

Sadly, the answer is yes, for the most part.

Here are the leading donors to Republicans among the greener sports teams/owners (from biggest donors to smallest in the 2016, 2018 and 2020 cycles combined):

  1. Charles Johnson/San Francisco Giants (MLB)/Oracle Park LEED Gold certified/$10.996 million
  2. Philip Anschutz/LA Kings (NHL), LA Galaxy (MLS)/Dignity Health Sports Center (Galaxy) uses Tesla Powerpacks/Anschutz also owns AEG Worldwide, the worlds “leading sports and live entertainment company.” Its AEG1 Earth division works to reduce environmental impact at its many venues/$1.8 million
  3. Mickey Arison/Miami Heat (NBA)/American Airlines Arena, first LEED certified venue in U.S. sports/$886,000
  4. Stephen Ross/Miami Dolphins (NFL)/Hard Rock Stadium became first NFL venue to use sustainable reusable aluminum cups made by the Ball Corporation/$447,000
  5. John Fisher/Oakland A’s (MLB)/its new ballpark, expected to open in 2024, will be a green trail blazer, with its roof doubling as a public park/$82,000

 

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Charles Johnson, owner of the San Francisco Giants (Photo credit: San Jose Mercury News)

 

Of course, there are reasons beyond tax cuts as to why owners of greening organizations give to Republicans (and Democrats). As detailed Wednesday in, “What motivates billionaire owners to donate political campaigns,” by ESPN staff writer Kevin Arnovitz, ideology (especially abortion in the case of GOP-supporting donors) and personal relationships also matter.

Even with that being the case, it says here that Green-Sports minded fans of greening teams whose owners are big GOP donors should publicly call them out.

If that doesn’t move the Johnsons and the Anschutzes to switch their donations from GOP to Democrat, then those fans should consider boycotting the team, at least financially if not emotionally.

Sacramento Bee columnist Marcus Breton did just that in 2018, when he turned his back on his beloved San Francisco Giants. It wasn’t Charles Johnson’s greenwashing that put Breton’s wallet back in his pocket; rather, it was the owner’s support of Cindy Hyde-Smith, with a history of making stunningly racist remarks, in a special election for a U.S. senate seat in Mississippi. She won that contest and is favored to win a full term on Tuesday in what is turning out to be a surprisingly tight race against Democrat Mike Espy.

In the interest of fairness, here are the leading donors to Democrats among the greener-hued sports franchises (again from biggest donors to smallest in the 2016, 2018 and 2020 cycles):

  1. David Bonderman/Seattle Kraken (NHL)/Recently sold venue naming rights to Amazon who promptly renamed it Climate Pledge Arena/$303,000
  2. Marc Lasry/Milwaukee Bucks (NBA)/Opened new LEED certified Fiserv Forum/$271,500
  3. Steve Tisch/New York Giants (NFL)/On-site solar at LEED Gold MetLife Stadium/$184,600
  4. Jody Allen (Paul Allen Trust)/Seattle Seahawks (NFL), Portland Trail Blazers (NBA)/Paul Allen was a founding funder of the Green Sports Alliance, Seattle’s Century Link Stadium and Portland’s Moda Center are LEED Gold/$166,000
  5. Arthur Blank/Atlanta Falcons (NFL)/Mercedes Benz Stadium is the first LEED Platinum NFL venue/$103,300

 

WNBA’S SEATTLE STORM ENDORSE BIDEN/HARRIS TICKET

The Seattle Storm endorsed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for president and vice president on October 21. It was a rare formal, public statement of support of a Presidential campaign by a professional sports organization.

This being 2020, Storm co-owner and former U.S. Olympic rower Ginny Gilder took to Twitter to announce that she and her co-owners Lisa Brummel and Dawn Trudeau are backing the Democrats.

Gilder tweeted, “We don’t typically endorse candidates, but these are NOT typical times. #Force4Change.”

 

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Ginny Gilder, co-owner of the Seattle Storm (Photo credit: Ginny Gilder)

 

Trudeau followed suit, tweeting, “There is no doubt who we support in this election. For ourselves. For our family and friends. For our business. For our country. For our future. Vote for Biden/Harris.”

While providing generous donations to major political candidates is commonplace among owners, as the piece above details, it is extremely rare for a major American sports team to publicly endorse a ticket.

But if an ownership group was going to endorse, especially in favor of a Democrat, it’s no surprise that that public support comes from the WNBA.

Per Sports Illustrated’s Ben Pickman, the league “has seen both individual examples of political activism, like from former [Minnesota] Lynx star Maya Moore stepping away from the sport to focus on criminal justice reform, and also league-wide action, such as the WNBA officially dedicating its most recent season to Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed last March by Louisville police.”

From a Green-Sports perspective, it is also worth noting, WNBA-wise, that:

  • Atlanta Dream point guard Renée Montgomery, who opted out this season in protest of the killings by police of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and too many others, made the connection between racial, environmental and climate injustice during a panel discussion at the recent Green Sports Alliance Summit.
  • The Seattle Storm will be playing their games at the aforementioned arena Climate Pledge Arena.

 

GSB’s Take: One last thing: If you are a registered voter in the United States and you haven’t already done so, make sure you #Vote. You can do so in person on Election Day (Tuesday November 3) or, if you live in a state in which early voting is still open, you can drop your ballot off at a dropbox or at an election office as it is likely too late to mail in your ballot. Click here if you are uncertain about how to vote in your state.

 

 

¹ In that same survey, the economy and terrorism/national security were tied for first in voters’ minds, with 44 percent calling it extremely important. The response to the coronavirus (43 percent) and healthcare (42 percent) were close behind.
² Loeffler was appointed to a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia by Governor Brian Kemp in 2019 upon the retirement of Johnny Isakson for health reasons. She has the most pro-Trump voting record in the Senate. This led to protests by Dream players and push back from Loeffler.

 


 

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