- Associated Press - Monday, January 2, 2012

The New York Giants and New York Jets share an NFL stadium, but their owners don’t share political views. Woody Johnson of the Jets is a top fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, while Giants co-owner Jonathan Tisch is a generous backer of President Obama.

They’re among a host of owners, executives, athletes and coaches from across the sports world supporting candidates in the 2012 election cycle.

Even the NFL and Major League Baseball have political action committees that are funded by sports owners and executives. They’ve donated to members of Congress and the parties’ congressional fundraising arms, but haven’t picked a presidential candidate - at least not yet.

It’s no secret why the sports industry is weighing in.

Immigration policy, intellectual-property rights, Internet gambling and performance-enhancing drugs are among the issues connected to sports that Washington lawmakers address. The industry lobbies on those matters and more. Sometimes, fierce rivalries on the field may not mean dramatic differences in politics.

The Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins, for example, are both backing the Republican team in the presidential election. Dallas owner Jerry Jones has donated to Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Mr. Romney, while Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has contributed to Mr. Romney.

Several NFL players have also contributed to political campaigns this election, including Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning to a pair of Republican senators, Redskins quarterback John Beck to Mr. Romney, and Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Tony Pashos to Ron Paul’s Republican presidential campaign.

Mr. Pashos, whose team bio says he would like to run for office someday, has “Paul for President” bumper stickers flanking the nameplate on his locker.

“I would never, ever give to any politician,” Mr. Pashos told the Associated Press. “But with Dr. Paul, I don’t think I’m giving to a politician. I think I’m giving to a man who is honest and can actually deliver change.”

Mr. Beck, in contrast, said he isn’t out front in expressing his political views in the locker room, lest it disrupt team harmony.

“I’m not going around trying to force my belief on anybody else, just like they’re not trying to force their belief on me,” he said.

The NBA, which recently ended a potential season-killing lockout, is providing the biggest splash in politics - but in Russia, not the U.S.

The owner of the New Jersey Nets, Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov, announced last month he will challenge Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the March presidential election. If Mr. Prokhorov wins, he will join Milwaukee Bucks owner and U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl as owner-politicians, though for less than a year, as the Wisconsin Democrat is not seeking re-election.

Obama donor Ted Leonsis, who owns the NBA’s Washington Wizards and the NHL’s Washington Capitals, has since criticized the president in a blog item called “Class Warfare Yuck!”

Mr. Leonsis, who donated $35,800 to the Obama Victory Fund in June, wrote in the blog item three months later that Mr. Obama was wrong to talk about “millionaires and billionaires” who need to pay more in taxes.

“I voted for our president,” he wrote. “It blows my mind when I am asked for money as a donation at the same time I am getting blasted as being a bad guy! Someone needs to talk our president down off of this rhetoric about good vs. evil; about two classes and math.”

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