The lines between sports and politics have blurred over the last couple of years, from a time where any political reference in sports was heavily frowned upon. I have written about this trend on a regular basis here, but something happened that has likely never happened in American history, or at least in many pundit's memories.
According to Outkick the Coverage host Clay Travis, on May 16th, the Nashville Predators became the first North American sports franchise to openly endorse a political candidate. This is different than an owner, coach, player or fanbase backing one politician over another. So although San Antonio Spurs coach Greg Popovich has taken a very anti-Trump stance, and Houston Texans owner Bob McNair has advocated for conservative causes, their respective organizations have not crossed this line.
In this case, the franchise as a whole has endorsed Nashville incumbent mayor David Briley for reelection. Again, this seems to be unprecedented.
Their endorsement can be found here.
This is what many people would call a "hot take." On one hand, the city of Nashville is at a crossroads. People are moving into the city at speeds that would dazzle a supersonic pilot, and this is as around 100 people per day move into town. This certainly gives the city things it otherwise wouldn't-- such as a fast-growing sports market (MLS coming soon) and direct flights to London. But many believe the growth is too fast, driving up traffic and costs of living.
On May 1st, voters in Nashville rejected a transit plan that would've eased the long-term growth process. Briley was rightfully supportive of this plan that could now torpedo his campaign as voters go to the polls on May 24th. All of this is at the heels of the resignation of former mayor Megan Berry, a supporter of the transit overhaul who was forced out of office after having an affair with her security officer.
Briley is seen as the more progressive, pro-business candidate in a field of anti-establishment challengers who may see the status-quo of the current municipal government as a condonement of the Berry scandal, whose actions were seen as immoral in the eyes of Nashville's Southern residents.
So it makes sense that the Predators-- a huge cog in the city's economy-- would be in favor of the "stability" candidate. If there is one symbol of Nashville's rise from cowtown to cosmopolitan metropolis, it's the Predators. The NHL franchise once on the brink of leaving town has seen its profile explode in the Music City, with tens of thousands crowing in front of jumbotrons in downtown to watch games, putting America on notice that the team and the city may be a "new kid on the block." Because the Predators have succeeded in bringing hockey to a non-traditional hockey market, the organization likely believes Nashville will have to let go of more traditional values in order to keep thriving.
And while they may not be wrong here, one has to think everything through. A sports team has endorsed a politician. Not an owner or star player, but the entire team; the entire franchise. That means they are potentially speaking against the will of anyone employed in the organization, including players, coaches, and staff, but also including marketers, public relations people, and others who may have very "normal" job titles by many people's standards, albeit with an NHL franchise.
Yeah, it's only a mayoral candidate, one may say. But this may set a dangerous precedent. If an NHL team can endorse a candidate for mayor, then what can stop an NBA team from endorsing a candidate for governor. If that happens, who knows, we may start seeing NFL teams endorse candidates for president.
Becuase after what we went through with Trump and Clinton, what we want to see on the front page of The New York Times, in big bold letters, is Dallas Cowboys to back Trump, Pittsburgh Steelers supporting Elizabeth Warren (Or any other Democrat, in this case), right?
The above scenario would be a bigger, more troubling version of the Colin Kaepernick situation for the NFL's business and image. And do we as consumers really want to see the product infiltrated with political messages? No, of course we don't! Which is why that even though the Predators may have a legitimate interest in the election of Mayor David Briley, it is not in our best interests for sports teams to be handing out political endorsements.
If anyone has any opinion on this matter, please share them in the comment section, thank you!