NFL players PAC targets two Texas congressional races

August 3, 2018 GMT

A group of NFL players looking to take a more aggressive role in American politics are helping a pair of Texans in two of the nation’s hottest congressional races.

After raising more than $700,000 for a new political action committee fighting for their interests in Washington, the NFL players have begun cutting their first checks to key political campaigns, specifically targeting two races in Texas.

The NFL Players Association’s One Team PAC sent $5,000 each to Democrat Colin Allred, who is trying to unseat Dallas Republican Rep. Pete Sessions, and San Antonio Republican Will Hurd, who faces a competitive challenge from Iraq War veteran Gina Ortiz Jones.

The races are considered two of the biggest races in Texas with both incumbents considered endangered, partly because of President Donald Trump’s lack of popularity in their districts.

Allred, 35, is a former professional football player who played four seasons with the Tennessee Titans. He’s one of two former NFL players running for office. The other is Republican Anthony Gonzalez, a former wide receiver with the Indianapolis Colts who is running for Congress in northeast Ohio, who also has the PAC’s support.

If either Gonzalez or Allred wins, it would mark the first time a former NFL player has been in Congress since 2015 when former U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan, a former NFL offensive lineman, retired from office. Runyon, a Republican from New Jersey, played 14 seasons in the NFL, including on the last Houston Oilers team before the franchise moved to Tennessee.

In addition to those three races, the newly created PAC has sent money to top U.S. House and Senate leaders on both sides of the political aisle. For instance, the group gave $5,000 to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican who is currently the House Majority leader. They also gave $2,700 to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Senator.

The One Team PAC was formed in June 2016, but it didn’t start raising money until last year. The PAC raised $723,000 from more than 1,300 NFL players and players union officials, according to Federal Election Commission. NFL superstars like New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees are among the PAC’s donor.

The PAC’s emergence comes at a time NFL players have become embroiled in political fights over some players protesting racial injustice during the playing of the National Anthem. Players have also testified at Capitol Hill about traumatic brain injuries affecting many former players.

The One Team PAC is the first of its kind created by players from any of the major sports unions in the United States. While the union is new to donating to candidates, the NFL owners have a long history of supporting candidates through their Gridiron PAC, giving to both Republicans and Democrats. In June, new FEC records show U.S. Reps. Al Green and Shelia Jackson Lee, both Houston Democrats, and Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Heath, all collected $2,500 each from the NFL PAC. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, also received $5,000 earlier this year. A PAC bundles contributions from donors and can contribute to individual political candidates.

Hurd is trying to win re-election to the 23rd Congressional District, which stretches from San Antonio to just outside of east El Paso. He narrowly won his set by just over 1 percent of the vote in 2016 and Democrat Hillary Clinton did better then Donald Trump among voters who live in the district. Clinton beat Trump by nearly 4 percentage points in the district.

Sessions is trying to hole the 32nd Congressional District, which is mostly based in Dallas County, but includes part of Collin County — one of the fastest growing counties in the state. Sessions easily won re-election in 2016, but Clinton bested Trump in the district by almost 2 percentage points.