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Sports figures choose teams in elections

Jan. 3, 2012 - 17:27 By Korea Herald
WASHINGTON (AP) ― The New York Giants and New York Jets share an NFL stadium but their owners don’t share political views. Woody Johnson of the Jets is a top fundraiser for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, while Giants co-owner Jonathan Tisch is a generous backer of President Barack Obama.

They’re among a host of owners, executives, athletes and coaches from across the sports world supporting candidates in the 2012 election cycle.

Even the NFL and Major League Baseball have political action committees that are funded by sports owners and executives. They’ve donated to congressional members and the parties’ congressional fundraising arms, but haven’t picked a presidential candidate ― at least not yet.

It’s no secret why the sports industry is weighing in.

Immigration policy, intellectual property rights, Internet gambling, and performance-enhancing drugs are among the issues connected to sports that Washington lawmakers address. The industry lobbies on those matters and more.

Johnson said the skills needed in football and in Washington aren’t that much different.

“To win on the football field you have to not only have the best players and best coaches, but you have to be organized very well,” Johnson said. “You have to have a sense of overall goals, but also manage the minute-by-minute and hour-by-hour operational skill.”

Sometimes, fierce rivalries on the field may not mean dramatic differences in politics.

The Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins, for example, are both backing the GOP team in the presidential election. Dallas owner Jerry Jones has donated to Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Romney, while Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has contributed to Romney.

The Redskins also have a family connection to politics, with general manager Bruce Allen donating to brother George Allen, a Republican Senate candidate in Virginia, who wrote a book called “What Washington Can Learn from the World of Sports.” The Allens are sons of the late Redskins coach George Allen, who was friends with President Richard Nixon.

Obama has a close connection to the NFL, tapping Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney in 2009 to become ambassador to Ireland. Rooney, a lifelong Republican, campaigned for Obama in the 2008 election.

Several NFL players have also contributed to political campaigns this election, including Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning to a pair of GOP senators, Redskins quarterback John Beck to Romney, and Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Tony Pashos to Ron Paul’s GOP presidential campaign.