NASCAR Passes To The Right When It Comes To Politics
by John Close
Charlotte, NC (August 13, 2012) - NASCAR will help the Republicans jump the start of the 2012 election process in Charlotte when it hosts a fundraiser for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney this Wednesday - a full three weeks before the Democrats and President Barrack Obama invade the 'Queen City' for the Democratic National Convention.
The Romney fundraiser will be chaired by NASCAR CEO Brian France and his wife Amy. Wednesday's event will be held at the swanky Duke Mansion. Other NASCAR luminaries slated to open up their wallets to the GOP candidate at the event are Mike Helton, Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick and Felix Sabates.
The fact that NASCAR passes to the right lining up to bolster the Republican financial effort should be no surprise. The France family has long supported the GOP and have in turn given NASCAR and it's parent company - International Speedway Corporation - a distinctly Republican flavor.
NASCAR and ISC aren't the only professional sports-related organizations to be active in the political process. Sports leagues of all types will contribute nearly $10 million dollars supporting the election of favored candidates in 2012.
The majority of the campaign contributions donated by the likes of NASCAR and the National Football League (NFL) will be earmarked for Republican candidates this year. In 2008, the NFL sent 87 percent of its campaign contributions to Republican candidate coffers.
Meanwhile, the National Basketball Association (NBA) donates more money to Democratic candidates. In 2008 for instance, the NBA dunked 99 percent of its political candidate donations to the Democratic side of the isle. This year, the pro hoopsters are again clearly on the Democratic team hosting a $30,000-a-plate fundraiser for President Obama prior to the NBA All-Star game.
But as much as pro sports organizations invest to get certain candidates elected, they spend even more each year on lobbyists in an effort to influence favorable political policy decisions.
Both the NFL and Major League Baseball (MLB) have Political Action Committees (PAC's) that contribute millions of dollars to politicos in an effort to have their leagues represented on Capitol Hill.
Issues such as federal anti-trust laws, cable television legislation, labor relations, tax breaks for stadium operation and financing, drug and doping policy, intellectual property and gambling have all been political hot buttons for professional and collegiate sports lobbying.
According to a Forbes Magazine report, sports leagues donated a staggering $61,252,906 in lobbying money alone over the past 10 years. That total is projected to increase to nearly $100 million more over the next decade.
Now that's some real jing.
The interesting thing about all this is that most fans seem to care little about the political leanings of their favorite driver/player, team or sport. In fact, we're betting that if you asked most fans which way the wind blows in Washington when it comes to their team or sport, they couldn't tell you.
Frankly, those things haven't mattered to the vast majority of people as factors like geography, generational and player/organizational personality ties are have always been more important to sports fans than political party preferences or policy debates.
Fans are more apt to debate whether Ford is better than Chevy, if the Bears have a better defense than the Packers, or if the Yankees hitters can dominate the pitchers on the Red Sox.
While politics and government seem to have a polarizing effect on society these days, those issues seem to get parked at the gate when fans head to the racetrack or stadium.
Hopefully, that will never change regardless as to how much money top sports honchos contribute to get their favored political candidates elected and later, to influence how they vote after they are in office.
Empty Seats Everywhere
There's been a lot of discussion over the last couple of years about the number of empty grandstand seats at NASCAR Sprint Cup events and Sunday's race at Watkins Glen International had its share of wide-open spaces.
That said, it was interesting to see the crowd - or lack of it - for the Carolina Panthers 2012 National Football League pre-season opener at Bank of America Stadium Saturday evening.
The 77,000-seat facility looked only about half full on what turned out to be a perfect night for football. Sure, it was only and 'exhibition' game, but you would think those conditions - the first game of the year, good weather, and a heightened level of excitement about the Panthers led by quarterback Cam Newton - would have football fans in Charlotte packing the stadium.
Not only was the crowd a disappointment, but more than half of those attending left the game by the middle of the fourth quarter.
Our point - Fans of all types of sports are feeling the economic pinch and are making the most of their entertainment dollar picking and choosing where and then they spend it. That's especially true now when it's tough to take a traditional family of four to any kind of top sporting event for less than $100.
And most of the time, that's just to get in the gate.
Seeing huge areas of empty seats at traditional 'stick and ball' sports over the past couple of seasons tells us that a slow economy - and high costs of admission, concessions, and souvenirs - has hit everyone, not just NASCAR.
One quick look at the crowd at the Panthers game Saturday night told you that.