It’s an interesting dichotomy: Politically active NBA coaches and players are doing their best to get Democrat Joe Biden elected. That includes Gregg Popovich taking part in an ad for him while three players — Udonis Haslem, Matt Barnes, and Karl-Anthony Towns — were campaigning for Biden in Florida.
Meanwhile, owners of teams are using back channels and “dark money” processes to donate heavily to re-elect Republican Donald Trump. Those owners know it would hurt their NBA business — in terms of getting free agents and more — to publicly come out and endorse a president most players see as an embodiment of a racist system.
Gregg Popovich took part in this 60-second ad for the Lincoln Project, looking to sway voters in Texas, a surprisingly close state in this election (according to polling).
"I stand for truth over lies." Gregg Popovich
— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) October 29, 2020
Meanwhile, in the known battleground state of Florida, it was popular Miami Heat player Haslem, joined by Barnes and Towns, out at a campaign rally.
— Anthony Man (@browardpolitics) October 29, 2020
While players politically lean left, the billionaire owners of NBA teams do not. They are using intermediary non-profits to fund political action committees working to re-elect President Trump. It’s known in politics as “dark money,” and it’s the way a lot of money is funneled into campaigns, especially by people trying to do it anonymously.
Baxter Holmes of ESPN has a must-read story on how all this work and how sports owners are using dark money to not damage their reputations with players and fans.
“Listen,” the owner mused, “I’m so worried about Biden’s regulations, so I’m funding as much as I can privately and confidentially to get Trump reelected. I know he’s crazy, and I hope Democrats take the House and the Senate, but then Trump can block stuff and protect us on the taxes and regulation.”
But it’s not just this election and how it has divided the nation where owners want anonymity.
“[Take donating to] a cause like Planned Parenthood,” a co-owner of an NBA team told ESPN, speaking only on the condition of anonymity. “There’ll be a lot of people in the South that don’t like that organization and a lot of people in the North that are fine with it. If you own a team in Oklahoma City, is donating to that gonna cause you issues?…
“I can’t imagine attaching my name to such a polarizing topic in terms of donations,” said one member of an NBA ownership group. “At the end of the day, if I want to get my beliefs out there, I’m going to vote. I think that’s ultimately contributing to change more than anything.”
Yet the money keeps flowing because it buys influence — donate and the politician will at least take your call.
Meanwhile, players are trying to get out the vote, which is the area that will ultimately decide this election.