The NFL’s players have decided to get more political.
Pros from all 32 teams donated to the National Football League Players Association’s One Team PAC late last year, giving nearly $700,000 to the political action committee on single day, according to a new report the team filed this week with the Federal Election Commission.
The two franchises with the greatest participation: The Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots and the Houston Texans. Each contributed a total of $32,000.
Four players, including Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady, made the maximum $5,000 contribution to the PAC, along with the association’s chief DeMaurice Smith. The PAC, which launched last June, has not yet reported making any political donations.
The players’ newfound political activity comes as Washington turns a spotlight on the league. Last October, for instance, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee held a forum featuring medical researchers and the widows of former players to examine the long-term effects of the traumatic brain injuries sustained in the game.
But no political figure is paying more attention to the NFL than President Trump, who has heaped scorn on players who kneel during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality. He argues the protests are disrespectful and has slammed the league as “weak” for tolerating them.
Last fall, a nonprofit group run by Trump allies ran digital ads urging sports fans to stop watching televised NFL games.
At Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Trump appeared to make a veiled reference to the player protests when he praised a young boy in the audience who places U.S. flags on veterans’ graves as reminding Americans “why we proudly stand for the national anthem.”
In addition to Brady and Smith, other maxed-out donors to the political action committee: Dwayne Allen of the Indiana Colts, Jermey Parnell of the Jacksonsville Jaguars and Eric Reid of the San Francisco 49ers. Reid knelt during all this season’s games to continue the protest tradition started by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Players from Philadelphia Eagles, the other team in this weekend's Super Bowl, contributed a total of $19,750 to the players' PAC.