NFL Fall Forecast: Is a New Feud with Trump on the Horizon?
Billionaire David Tepper, a sharp critic of the president, will be purchasing the Carolina Panthers later this month
It may be the NFL’s off-season, but the league’s conflicts with the White House could be in the game plan for the months ahead.
News broke on Tuesday that New Jersey billionaire and Never-Trumper David Tepper will purchase the Carolina Panthers for $2.2 billion later in the month.
Although the move may sound pretty ordinary — a hedge fund billionaire buying a professional football team — there is more to the equation.
Tepper, a Republican, backed Jeb Bush and later John Kasich in the 2016 presidential primary. However, once Donald Trump won the party’s nomination, Tepper took sides with the Never-Trumpers. In the days leading up to the election, Tepper made several media appearances and shared why he supported Democrat Hillary Clinton — though he was still voting Republican in local elections.
On CNBC in November 2016, he called Trump “the father of lies,” and last month he said the president was a “demented, narcissistic scumbag” while speaking at Carnegie Mellon University, according to Sports Illustrated.
During the 2016 and 2017 NFL seasons, a number of players controversially knelt for the national anthem, and, last September, Trump made clear how he felt about it. At a rally in Alabama, he said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b**** off the field right now. He is fired. They’re ruining the game.'”
Anti-Trump NFL players took this as an initiative to kneel for the anthem, even if they hadn’t knelt prior to the president’s comments. Although the protests subsided as the season progressed, the league has just added another prominent anti-Trump voice to its mix. And while it’s unclear where Tepper stands on kneeling, it’s evident he does not like the president — so there’s reason to believe he would go against Trump on the issue because of that dislike.
Tepper will also likely be propelled by the left-leaning media, which will seek him out for any anti-Trump quotes that fit their narrative. After all, that's what they do with NBA coaches Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr, along with Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James. Sure, it may be off-putting for millions of Americans, but that didn't stop pro sports personalities from polarizing the nation in the recent past.
If the NFL wants to win back conservatives and other patriotic Americans, this is not the way to do it. The league's front office has to approve every time one ownership group sells a team to another. In the process, this staff must look into the background of the buyer. That said, they must understand the kind of headache Tepper might cause.
The NFL has the right to sell a team to Tepper — just as fans have the right to watch his team or not. Depending on how much he opens his mouth this season, Tepper could help lead the league to a further ratings decline — all in the name of the resistance. Or not.
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.