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September 12, 2008
by Ryan Hudson
It is probably not a surprise that Presidential hopefuls, John McCain, a former Navy boxer, and Barack Obama, a high-school basketball player (though, certainly not a bowler), are generating more donations from current athletes than any other election in history. But what may serve as news is that for the first time ever, the spread between the two parties is actually close.
Professional athletes and executives have given $445,334 to the two nominees -- 55.8 percent to McCain and 44.2 percent to Obama, according to ESPN analysis of figures from the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group.
Professional sports figures have given twice as much money to all presidential candidates combined during this election than they have to candidates in each of the past two races. And almost two months of fundraising remain for the two nominees.
Candidates' popularity might be fueling part of the increase, especially among Obama supporters who are first-time donors.
But it’s more than just individual athletes. In 2000, contributions from professional sports donors to presidential candidates totaled just over $333,000. In this election year, the amount is already over one million dollars.
The top donors to each party are also not terribly surprising. The Chargers, who call San Diego home, the same city that hosts the US Navy's Pacific Fleet, lead with $23,500 in donations to the McCain camp, while the NBA has given over $24,000 to Obama. Interestingly, Killerspin, a table tennis equipment, accessories, and clothing brand, is responsible for the second-largest gift amount to the Illinois Senator.
Apparently, one of the biggest reasons for the increased donations is because pro sports donors are more divided. "In the past two presidential elections, the Democratic nominee has struggled to muster at most 16 percent of pro sports donations."
Additionally, it would appear that a majority of Republicans reside in the world of the NFL.
Six of McCain's top 10 pro sports donors are with NFL teams, led by the San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans. Chargers CEO Dean Spanos and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones also are among McCain's top fundraisers, helping bring in between $50,000 and $250,000 in donations by hosting parties or events at which they collect money from friends and associates.
NBA staff topped Obama's list of pro sports donors at $24,360. No one in the NBA office was willing to talk, but Obama's ties to basketball are well known. He played for his high school team in Hawaii and still shoots hoops to stay in shape. A YouTube video of Obama's making a 3-pointer has been viewed almost a quarter-million times.
Hopefully, this is all a giant precursor for the 2020 Presidential race of Curt Schilling and Charles Barkley.
Pro sports figures more invested in this presidential campaign - ESPN
Top 10 Most Athletic Democrats - RCS
Top 10 Most Athletic Republicans - RCS