Barber: A look at political donations of Bay Area sports figures
In the wake of the controversy involving Giants co-owner Charles B. Johnson and his contributions to the U.S. Senate campaign of tone-deaf jack-in-the-box Cindy Hyde-Smith, the team’s CEO sent out a press release. Larry Baer’s message came off as self-congratulatory. The release took a stand against unspecific hate speech, but mostly recapped the Giants’ efforts on behalf of social justice over the years.
Baer’s press release was corporate-speak. But I’m guessing that he was troubled, on a personal level, by Johnson’s right-wing allegiances. Because Larry Baer’s political contributions are also on the public record, and they look a lot different than Johnson’s.
Between 1999 and 2017, Baer contributed close to $20,000 to the campaigns of Bill Bradley, John Kerry, Barack Obama and Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris, a nine-person All-Star lineup of liberal causes.
I know this because all of it is public information.
Even if you wear your political affiliations on your sleeve (I don’t mean literally; only Nazis do that), it still feels like a political contribution is a private act. It isn’t. Every gift of $50 or more is tabulated by the Federal Elections Commission and posted for all the world to see.
With Johnson’s $2,700 check to Hyde-Smith — who made a “public hanging” joke in, of all places, Mississippi, and who wore a Confederate hat at Jefferson Davis’ house in Biloxi, and who won re-election by nearly 70,000 votes on Tuesday — dominating the news cycle, I thought it might be interesting to see which other Bay Area sports figures had contributed to their favorite pols. The results were telling, if not scandalous.
One thing I learned is that athletes almost never make political contributions, at least not in a way that shows up in the official record. Well, I should make one exception. A number of NFL veterans — the list includes the 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo, Joe Staley and Richard Sherman, and the Raiders’ Derek Carr, Kelechi Osemele and Jared Cook — have given to the NFL Players Association’s One Team Political Action Committee (or PAC). Other than that, it was hard to find a prominent player who donated to a politician.
Coaches are only slightly more charitable. Jon Gruden, then an ESPN analyst, gave $600 to the Mitt Romney presidential campaign in 2012, and wrote checks amounting to $2,500 for Republican George Allen’s bid for a Senate seat in Virginia. (Allen lost to Democrat Tim Kaine.) No surprise in that latter connection; Gruden’s right-hand man in Oakland and Tampa Bay was George’s brother, Bruce Allen.
On the Stanford campus, women’s basketball coach Tara Vanderveer contributed $2,000 to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016. David Shaw, the football coach, is a big supporter of Cory Booker, his former Cardinal teammate; he gave $8,800 to the New Jersey senator in 2013. Shaw also sent $1,000 to Barack Obama in 2008.
The real spenders are in the front office. New Giants president Farhan Zaidi’s $1,000 to Democrat Russ Feingold in a Wisconsin Senate race didn’t ripple the waters much, nor did Raiders president Marc Badain’s $5,700 to Eric Swalwell, a California Democrat whose congressional district covers parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
But take a look at Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob, whose page on the elections commission site shows more than $86,000 in political contributions since 1997.