If you need proof beyond player salaries and team purchase prices that pro sports are businesses, consider how many organizations employ Washington lobbyists.
Here are the top spenders (including both owners and athletes) in 2011:
|National Football League (NFL)||$1,620,000||$300,000|
|Major League Baseball (MLB)||$520,000||$70,000|
|Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)||$410,000||$110,000|
|U.S. Olympic Committee||$360,000||$90,000|
|Bowl Championship Series (BCS)||$350,000||$70,000|
|Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour||$340,000||$100,000|
|National Thoroughbred Racing Association||$260,000||$60,000|
|National Football League Players Association (NFLPA)||$230,000||$30,000|
|National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)||$170,000||$40,000|
|National Basketball Association (NBA)||$85,000||$25,000|
|Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA)||$79,435||$7,238|
|Professional Golfers Association of America (PGAA)||$72,000||$18,000|
|U.S. Soccer Foundation||$49,000||$21,000|
|International Boxing Federation||$40,000||$10,000|
|United States Tennis Association||$20,000||$40,000|
Sources: First Street, Center for Responsive Politics
What are the federal affairs plaguing the world of sports?
The NFL has internal lobbyists and also contracts with four outside lobby shops to address issues such as broadcasting, internet gambling, drug testing and player safety.
Brain injuries are an issue of growing concern, particularly in the wake of the recent suicides of former players Junior Seau and Dave Duerson. In its most recent Senate filing, the NFL listed “federal concussion legislation” as an issue on which it had lobbied.
It also addressed the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill. As we wrote earlier this month, the legislation calls for new FAA rules for the use of drones in U.S. airspace. A drone flew over the Super Bowl last year to assist in security.
Major League Baseball has lobbied such issues as internet piracy, stadium safety and mental health programs for veterans. It recently dropped its contract with lobby firm Arnold & Porter, but continues working with Baker & Hostetler.
The MLB Players Association, not surprisingly, has addressed drug testing. The union’s lobby bills reached their highest level over the last decade in 2005, when Congress held hearings investigating the use of steroids by Mark McGwire and other players.
The association’s spending in Washington has plummeted since, from $440,000 in 2005 to less than $80,000 in 2011.
Of the other major league sports, the National Basketball Association spent just $85,000 last year. The National Hockey League spent less than $5,000.
Despite its huge U.S. audience, NASCAR doesn’t pay much attention to Washington. Its lobby tab totaled just $90,000 last year.
Yet legislation in Congress has drawn its attention. The Motorsports Fairness and Permanency Act of 2011, proposed by Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) in the House and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) in the Senate, would provide tax benefits to racetracks.
The PGA Tour, which operates as a tax-exempt membership organization of professional golfers, also has lobbied on tax issues. Its lobby bill totaled $340,000 last year.
Taxes have also worried the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which spent $260,000 on lobbying in 2011.
A more topical concern has been the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which would provide funding to prevent killing of horses for human consumption. The association is supporting passage, as are groups such as the Human Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Another measure on which the racing association has lobbied is the Interstate Horseracing Improvement Act, which prohibits the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Our list of sports lobbyists also includes amateur sports organizations such as the U.S. Olympic Committee, whose interests included immigration and customs, intellectual property, paralympics, amateur sports and community programs, and the UNESCO anti-doping treaty.
The Bowl Championship Series, which encompasses the five NCAA football bowls, spent $350,000 last year on Washington lobbying. The series wasn’t overly specific in its latest Senate filing, citing its focus as “issues related to college football playoff.”
Traditional sports fans might question our inclusion of the Ultimate Fighting Championship on our list of lobbying groups. Yet the organization, which produces martial arts events, spent $410,000 on lobbying last year.
Major issues cited in its reports to the Senate include online gambling and intellectual property.