Researchers at ESPN have highlighted the political donations of professional sports team owners. The group dug into records dating back to 2015 involving owners in six professional sports leagues. Through their work, researchers found that more than 75% of political donations made in 2020 benefited the Republican party or Republican-backed initiatives. Most notably, the newly released report found that 75% of the public donations made by NBA owners went toward the Republican party or Republican-backed initiatives.
The right-leaning financial donations of NBA owners run contrary to many the of the public statements by players and league officials. Over the summer, many members of the NBA Players Association pushed for the passage of HR 7120, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020. Led by Rep. Karen Bass of California, the bill did pass by a vote of 236-181. Of the 181 votes against the bill, 180 came from Republican legislators. Furthermore, only three Republicans for the bill. After passing through the U.S. House of Representatives, HR 7120 has sat in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate for weeks. “I don’t think any of our players think we’ve got a bunch of progressives running these teams," Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association Michelle Roberts said.
Despite Republican support within the NBA, many professional sports owners have offered financial support for former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign against Republican President Donald Trump. Of the 170 owners included in the report, 13 directly donated to the Trump campaign or a Trump PAC. In contrast, 20 owners directly donated to the Biden campaign or a Biden PAC. While Biden supporters may outnumber Trump supporters within the owner class, Trump supporting owners tend to donate more. From 2016 to 2020, San Francisco Giants Owner Charles Johnson and Orlando Magic Owner Dan DeVos have donated more to political causes than any other team owner. Both Johnson and DeVos have donated directly to the Trump campaign. In fact, DeVos's sister-in-law, Betsy, currently serves in the Trump administration.
Despite the seemingly large division between plays and owners, many within sports say there has been little discussion between the two sides regarding the matter.
“No one has confronted me with my political views or who I contributed to or who I haven’t contributed to,” longtime NBA executive Jerry Colangelo said regarding his donation to the Trump Victory Campaign. “And I appreciate that.”