The public often wants athletes and coaches to stay out of politics. But many sports figures are Americans, too, and in this highly contentious campaign, they’re weighing in with endorsements and donations for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
While Trump has received some money and many endorsements from high-profile sports figures, Clinton dominated the number of donations from people in sports, according to a CBS Sports analysis of data at opensecrets.org. In that sense, sports reflects society. As of Aug. 31, Clinton had raised a total of $530 million compared to $210 million by Trump.
Some NFL locker rooms are so divided over the election that at least one coach insisted there be no more player discussions about Trump while on team property, according to Bleacher Report. Meanwhile, NFL owners, who traditionally lean Republican, are virtually nowhere to be found on Trump’s donation lists.
Four years ago, I found 11 professional sports owners who donated money to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Only one of those same 11 also has given to Trump in 2016: Houston Texans owner and Republican super donor Bob McNair ($254,600).
The vast majority of McNair’s massive figure was two donations to two joint fundraising committees that sent the proceeds to Trump’s campaign, according to citizensforethics.org. McNair has donated $5.9 million to various candidates and entities in the 2016 election cycle.
At least two more NFL owners gave to Trump: the New York Jets’ Woody Johnson ($100,000), who was Jeb Bush’s national finance chairman in the primaries, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Edward Glazer ($55,400). Glazer also gave $5,400 to Clinton.
Clinton has donations from some high-profile sports names, including boxing legend Muhammad Ali (before his death), Hall of Famers Magic Johnson and Hank Aaron, ex-New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, tennis legend Billie Jean King and Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.
Trump landed endorsements from names such as golf icon Jack Nicklaus, ex-Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight, former boxer Mike Tyson, ex-Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka and ex-NBA stars Dennis Rodman and Latrell Sprewell.
|Hillary Clinton donor||Donation||Donald Trump donor||Donation|
|Edward Glazer, Buccaneers co-owner||$5,400||Bob McNair, Texans owner||$254,600|
|Sammy Sosa, ex-Cubs OF||$5,400||Woody Johnson, N.Y. Jets owner||$100,000|
|Jason Kidd, Bucks coach||$5,200||Edward Glazer, Buccaneers co-owner||$55,400|
|Billy King, ex-Nets GM||$5,200||Red McCombs, ex-Vikings owner||$5,400|
|Muhammad Ali, ex-boxer (before death)||$2,700||Gene Michael, ex-Yankees manager/GM||$800|
|Magic Johnson, Lakers HOFer||$2,700||Richie Incognito, Bills OL||$500|
|Alex Rodriguez, ex-Yankees 3B||$2,700||Dan Jenkins, sportswriter||$400|
|Mike Tomlin, Steelers coach||$2,700||Curt Schilling, ex-MLB pitcher||$250|
|Billie Jean King, tennis legend||$2,700||Vince Dooley, ex-Georgia HOF coach||$250|
|Franco Harris, ex-Steelers RB||$2,700||Davey Johnson, ex-Mets manager||$240|
|Tom Werner, Red Sox chairman||$2,700||Matt Boland, NBA referee||$154|
|Sam Kennedy, Red Sox president||$2,700||Randy Cross, ex-49ers OL||$80|
|Jagger Rusconi, Red Sox prospect||$2,700||Paul Sparling, Bengals trainer||$80|
|Calvin Pryor, N.Y. Jets S||$2,700||Marcel Lachemann, ex-Angels manager||$40|
|Mike D’Antoni, Rockets coach||$2,700||Brady Miller, race car driver||$28|
|Steve Tisch, N.Y. Giants co-owner||$2,700||Adam Jahn, Columbus Crew player||$25|
|Jeffrey Lurie, Eagles owner||$2,700|
|Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal counsel||$2,700|| || |
|Grant Hill, ex-NBA player||$2,700|| || |
|Adam Silver, NBA commissioner||$2,700|| || |
|Jason Collins, ex-NBA player||$2,700|| || |
|Tony Gonzalez, ex-Chiefs TE||$2,700|| || |
|Jay Williams, ex-Duke player||$2,700|| || |
|Kevin Plank, Under Armour CEO||$2,700|| || |
|Rolando Blackman, ex-NBA player||$2,700|| || |
|David Morehouse, Penguins CEO||$2,700|| || |
|Hank Aaron, Braves HOFer||$2,300|| || |
|Dikembe Mutombo, ex-NBA HOFer||$2,161|| || |
|Michelle Kwan, ex-figure skater||$2,083|| || |
|Lin Dunn, women’s basketball HOFer||$2,055|| || |
|Jonas Gray, ex-NFL RB||$1,154|| || |
|Jeffrey Kessler, sports attorney||$1,000|| || |
|Lou Holtz, ex-Notre Dame HOF coach||$1,000|| || |
|Ben Olsen, D.C. United coach||$1,000|| || |
|Rory Babich, Florida Panthers CEO||$1,000|| || |
|Martin Mayhew, ex-Lions GM||$1,000|| || |
|Joel Bitonio, Browns OL||$1,000|| || |
|John Greco, Browns OL||$1,000|| || |
|Chamique Holdsclaw, ex-WNBA player||$536|| || |
|Jon Miller, S.F. Giants announcer||$500|| || |
|Doug Williams, ex-NFL QB||$350|| || |
|Dale Scott, MLB umpire||$72|| || |
|All occurred during this election cycle.|
| Trump’s donations from McNair, Johnson and Glazer are much higher than others listed because they gave to Trump’s joint fundraising committee (JFC), an entity that can be created by two or more candidates, political action committees or party committees to share costs and split proceeds. |
A donor can contribute up to $5,400 to a candidate per election cycle. In addition, a donor can give up to $66,800 per election cycle to the national committee of a political party and up to $20,000 per cycle to the party committee in states that agreed to sign on to the JFC. That means a single donor could write one check for about $732,000 to Clinton or $450,000 to Trump.
Many Republicans in sports turned their money this time toward congressional races instead of Trump. For example, Nike founder Phil Knight, who gave $5,000 to Romney in 2012, donated money this way in the 2016 cycle: $89,600 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, $33,400 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and $10,400 to House Speaker Paul Ryan and his political action committee (PAC).
Republicans in sports gave more during the primary season, when they were all over the map with their presidential donations during a primary with 17 candidates. There were a handful of rare donations this cycle by college coaches and athletic directors, who typically avoid politics.
- Ohio State coach Urban Meyer publicly endorsed and gave $2,700 to Republican presidential candidate John Kasich, the governor of Ohio.
- Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz donated $2,700 to Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie.
- Arizona State football coach Todd Graham gave $5,000 to Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican congressman who is Speaker of the House.
- Florida coach Jim McElwain gave $5,400 to his former boss, ex-Colorado State athletic director Jack Graham, who lost his bid for the Republican Senate nomination in Colorado.
- Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey donated $2,700 to Christie’s presidential campaign.
- Louisiana Tech AD Tommy McClelland donated $500 to Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush.
- Then-Southern California AD Pat Haden gave $2,700 to Bush.
Here are some of the endorsements for Clinton and Trump this presidential season from sports figures:
Endorsing Hillary Clinton
Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James: “Only one person running truly understands the struggles of an Akron child born into poverty. And when I think about the kinds of policies and ideas the kids in my foundation need from our government, the choice is clear. That candidate is Hillary Clinton.”
Hall of Famer Magic Johnson on Twitter: “I feel @HillaryClinton will be a great President for the American people and she will make sure that everyone has a voice!”
Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: “When did we start devaluing intelligence and knowledge? That’s why electing Clinton is important not just to maintaining the integrity of the United States but also to preventing an international trend that threatens to unleash a trump of hatred and fear over reason. We are in a defining battle between the resurgence of the irrational, and all the horrors that have historically gone with it -- violence, bigotry, fascism -- and reason, with all the advances that have accompanied it -- justice and freedom for all, regardless of ethnic background, social status, gender or sexual orientation.”
Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey on Twitter: “This election is too important for me to sit on the sidelines..#ImWithHer @hillaryClinton”
U.S. women’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe: “We want to bring light to [pay inequality for women] not only for us and the inequality that we have, but just as a paradigm shift for women’s football, women’s sports and ultimately women in general. ... To be a woman in this man’s world of politics and to be able to fight her way to the top -- I think that’s one of the issues [Clinton is] bringing with her.”
Former U.S. track and field gold medalist Carl Lewis on Twitter: “With my full support. Let’s go Hillary!”
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban: “Trump scares me. Donald, initially, I really hoped he would be something different, that as a businessperson, I thought there was an opportunity there. But then he went off the reservations and went bats--- crazy. ... I am ready to tell the world that I am here to endorse Hillary Clinton.”
Endorsing Donald Trump
Washington State football coach Mike Leach: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, and that’s what we’ve been doing for at least 10 years. And so if we like the last 10 years and do the same thing, we’re going to get the same results, and I don’t think anybody here is interested in the same results. America needs different results. We need to make America great again. It’s time for Mr. Trump to assist us together and our country to achieve different results.”
Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan: “There’s so many things I admire about Mr. Trump, but one thing I really admire about him is -- you know what -- he’ll say what’s on his mind. And so many times, you’ll see people -- a lot of people -- want to say the same thing. But there’s a big difference: They don’t have the courage to say it.”
Hall of Fame college basketball coach Bob Knight: “You folks are taking a look at the most prepared man in history to step in as president of the United States, that man right there. ... There has never been a more honest politician than Donald Trump. ... What you did to give us Donald Trump, they’re going to take all of you people, and they’re going to put you right next to our Founding Fathers and George Washington, that’s what the hell they’re going to do with you people!”
Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman on Twitter: “@realDonaldTrump has been a great friend for many years. We don’t need another politician, we need a businessman like Mr. Trump!”
Golfer John Daly on Twitter: “That’s y I luv my friend @realDonaldTrump he’s not politics he’s business! It’s what our country needs.”
Hall of Fame college football coach Bobby Bowden: “I love his slogan. When he first said he was going to run for president, I loved what he said that he was going to make America great again. ... I was born in 1929 and we had a great military back then. I like it because Donald Trump said he wants to rebuild our military.”
Hall of Fame college football coach Lou Holtz: “The main reason I’m endorsing him, I played his golf course, I stayed in his hotel. He does nothing but go first class in everything. He wants his country to be first class as well.”
Records show Holtz donated $1,000 to Clinton in March and not to Trump. Holtz publicly endorsed Trump two months later.