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Sports owners have put $46 million toward federal political donations since 2015

Data: ESPN/FiveThirtyEight; Chart: Axios Visuals

Sports team owners in the four largest North American leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) have donated over $46 million in federal elections since 2015, according to research conducted by ESPN and FiveThirtyEight.

By the numbers: Over the past three elections, $35.7 million of that money (77.4%) has gone to Republican campaigns and super PACs, compared to $10.4 million (22.6%) to Democrats.

The Trump donors: Nine owners have contributed to the Trump campaign or Trump super PACs during the 2020 election cycle.

  • ⚾️ MLB: Charles Johnson, Giants; Todd Rickets, Cubs; Robert Plummer, Dodgers
  • πŸ€ NBA: Dan DeVos, Magic; Tilman Fertitta, Rockets
  • πŸ’ NHL: Bill Foley, Golden Knights; Peter Karmanos, Hurricanes
  • 🏈 NFL: Mike Brown, Bengals
  • 🏟 Multi-league: James Dolan, Knicks/Rangers

The Biden donors: 15 owners have given to the Biden campaign or Biden super PACs, though at smaller totals, with overall contributions roughly half that of the Trump donors listed above.

  • ⚾️ MLB: Laura Rickets, Cubs; Tom Werner, Red Sox; Billie Jean King, Dodgers; Ilana Kloss, Dodgers; Jim Pohlad, Twins
  • 🏈 NFL: Arthur Blank, Falcons; Arthur J. Rooney II, Steelers; Mary Kelly, Broncos; Zygi Wolf, Vikings
  • πŸ€ NBA: Marc Lasry, Bucks; James Dinan, Bucks;
  • πŸ’ NHL: David Bonderman, Kraken; Herbert Fritch, Predators
  • 🏟 Multi-league: David Blitzer, 76ers/Devils; Peter Gruber, Warriors/Dodgers

The big donors: Of the 11 owners who have contributed over $1 million since 2015, nine directed that money to Republican causes or candidates.

  • πŸ”΄ Republican: Charles Johnson, SF Giants ($11M); Dan DeVos, Magic ($2.3M); Philip Anschutz, L.A. Kings ($1.8M); Jimmy/Susan Haslam, Browns ($1.6M); Dan Gilbert, Cavaliers ($1.5M); James Dolan, Knicks/Rangers ($1.5M); Ken Kendrick, Diamondbacks ($1.4M); Janice McNair, Texans ($1.4M); Robert Castellini, Reds ($1.2M)
  • πŸ”΅ Democratic: Peter Angelos, Orioles ($2.1M); Laura Ricketts, Cubs ($1.7M)

Between the lines: So long as money drives American politics, wealthy sports owners will be in close proximity. But their motivations can be different.

  • "Some ... are hobbyists who like the action, while others like having their proverbial name on the wall of a longstanding American institution like a major political party," ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz writes.
  • "Some enjoy the ego gratification that comes with exclusive company, while others are just returning a favor for a friend who gave to their philanthropic project."

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