Nascar and PGA Tour play the Donald Trump card – because they know their audience
Sports officials perform an uneven balancing act in endorsing the GOP candidate and claiming they are inclusive
In a perfect world we keep politics out of sport. But when was the last time anyone confused this world with perfection? Sport is a huge business and any professional franchise whose valuation is below US$1 billion is now considered somewhat insignificant. With that kind of money and exposure, it’s inevitable that politicians will naturally gravitate towards the opiate of the masses.
Politics is part of life and so is sport, a fact that was once again reinforced over the last few weeks and despite the protestations in some quarters about the mingling of the two, it is what it is. This is also not another liberal hack telling you how to think and how to vote. So relax, save your vitriol for something truly insidious like global poverty. The fact that a caveat is even necessary here speaks of the passion, misguided or otherwise, that has developed around the most omnipresent person in the news these days.
Donald Trump is everywhere. He is more viral than chicken pox. His popularity may be mystifying but it is very real. The brash hairdo behind an eponymous empire is now the presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States. By steamrolling political correctness, like restrictive immigration of certain religions to the US, his legend has grown. But you don’t need me to tell you that Trump has been controversial and divisive.
Anybody with electricity knows this and presumably Brian France has electricity. As the chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Nascar, a racing association that trails only the NFL in sports television ratings in the US, he can certainly afford electricity.
Last week France hopped on the company jet and took a posse over to a Trump rally in Georgia where he was introduced at the podium as the chief executive of Nascar. France was gushing in his praise of Trump and unabashed in his endorsement, which seemed quite natural considering that his sports primary demographic is right in Trump’s wheelhouse. They are true patriots who “want to make America great again”.
However, what France was not prepared for were the fallout and recriminations from his “routine endorsement”. One large Nascar sponsor took to Twitter to bemoan France’s actions while claiming that there is no place for any kind of endorsement in business. After all, any good corporation is colour blind. They don’t see black or white or yellow, they only see green. “I’m not supporting him for all of his views, or his immigration views,” France said. “I happen to be very enamoured by the excitement he’s brought and the voter turnout that it is creating.”
That may be true but you don’t get to cherry pick when Trump goes out and tells everyone he now has Nascar’s endorsement, a statement France says is not necessarily true.
“We talked to the campaign about the endorsement that I made, versus the sport, and it’s hard to get that perfectly right all the time,” he said.
No, it’s not hard, it’s impossible. Do you think France was up on the podium speaking to throngs at a Trump rally because he was merely an earnest and concerned citizen or is he up there because he is CEO of Nascar? Just own it man, particularly if it’s what you believe. France claimed the controversy has obscured the millions the sport has spent recently to be more inclusive. But, regardless, this was not a cavalier decision by France. He had to know that supporting Trump was good for business; he was simply fortifying his core.
Professional golf also wants you to know that they are every bit as inclusive as Nascar. “Mr Trump’s comments are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf,” the PGA said in a statement released last week on the eve of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at the Trump Doral course in Florida. Not surprisingly, the candidate made a cameo appearance on the final day of the tournament and why not? It’s his course.
PGA commissioner Tim Finchem is too smart to publicly endorse Trump, but he doesn’t have to. The holding of an annual tournament at a Trump course and awarding the 2022 PGA Championship, their penultimate tournament, to the Trump National course in Bedminster, New Jersey, speaks volumes. Trump’s comments may be inconsistent with what the PGA is all about, but his properties are not. The PGA is also cherry picking much like Nascar and, knowing the demographic of their sport, the Trump association won’t hurt them either. In the end, it comes down to whether you want to judge them by their words or their actions. It’s up to you.