Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 10/3/12

The worlds of professional football and politics have a long and intermingled history. For example:

  • 1996 Republican Vice Presidential candidate, the late Jack Kemp, played quarterback for three NFL franchises, including the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Giants.
  • Congressman Heath Shuler, a Democrat serving North Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives, was drafted by the Washington Redskins and served as their starting quarterback for approximately two seasons.
  • Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent of the Seattle Seahawks served the state of Oklahoma for four terms as a Republican Congressman.

But some of the latest political news involving the NFL involves current personnel and not former players.

Earlier this week, in an interview with Bloomberg Television, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson made a political statement that shocked some in the NFL. When asked which he would choose, a winning season for his team or a win for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Johnson made a political choice.

“Well, I think you always have to put country first,” Johnson said. “So I think it’s very, very important, not only for us, but in particular for our kids and grandkids that this election come off with Mitt Romney and (Paul) Ryan as president and vice president.”

Another political choice was made this week by John Elway, Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the Denver Broncos. According to The Weekly Standard, a conservative political magazine, Elway endorsed Romney for President and appeared at a campaign rally with him in Colorado.

As a conservative Republican, I agree with both of these men in regard to their political choice. But what about their political calculations?

Undoubtedly there are a number of individuals who would self-identify as Democrats within the Broncos' and Jets' organizations. Will they now look at Elway and Johnson negatively because they have taken a very public point of view on the presidential election?

I think it is probable that some will. And the same may be true if the two executives had publicly supported President Obama. Some of their Republican players and employees would probably view that as a negative.

Is it worth the risk, then, to take a political stand when you might end up alienating a significant portion of your players and team employees? I think it is.

The freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are First Amendment rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Those rights should be appreciated by everyone, including those in the NFL. And whether you are a player or a politician, exercising those rights is always worth the risk. 



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