The Nashville Predators of NHL took a dive this week into the political world, endorsing Democrat David Briley in the city’s upcoming mayoral special election.
Briley tweeted a video on Wednesday that featured Predators team President Sean Henry and the team’s mascot, Gnash. In it, he encouraged people to go out and vote — but said Smashville (the nickname for the Predators) would be voting for Briley.
It did not take long for people to catch on, of course, and see the problem with this endorsement.
Clay Travis of Fox Sports put it best by acknowledging this isn’t something a team should be doing, despite being a Democrat himself. Sports teams should not be in the business of trying to win elections. They should be in the business of trying to win games — and win over fan bases.
Picking sides in a political election is not a good way for them to do either of those things.
What’s also puzzling here is that the Predators went out of their way to pick a Democratic candidate though they’re based in a red state. President Donald Trump captured 61.1 percent of Tennessee’s vote in the 2016 presidential election, compared to Hillary Clinton’s 34.9 percent; plus, the state’s U.S. senators, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, are both Republicans, as is Gov. Bill Haslam.
Yet that’s not the important part of it. Even if the team itself were to go out of its way to endorse a Republican candidate, that wouldn’t be the right move, either. Regardless of which side a team supports, millions of people will disagree with them — which hurts the business side of things.
The other problem here: The Predators may have set a terrible precedent. Are teams now going to use their power and popularity in a given area to get people to vote how the team owners want them to vote? It’s clear President Trump has some enemies in the NFL, such as soon-to-be Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper and Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, whose anti-Trump comments were secretly recorded and leaked last month.
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Those are both teams based in states that Trump won (North Carolina and Pennsylvania) — states that have gone both ways this century, so they could go out and use this same strategy against him.
Pro sports teams should not be super PACs. It’s that simple.
There’s a difference between giving back and trying to be a political pundit or activist.
Sports teams should focus on sports. If they want to give back to the community because they make a lot of money, great — but there’s a difference between giving back and trying to be a political pundit or activist.
Political commentators exist already. Few people are paying to see an NHL, NBA, MLB, or NFL team play because they care about the head coach or star player’s take on foreign policy.
Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, ESPN, and other outlets.