Officials at the National Hockey League are maintaining a zone of silence for the third straight day when it comes to responding to The Tennessee Star’s questions about whether the Nashville Predators’ endorsement of far left David Briley in tomorrow’s special mayoral election in Nashville/Davidson County violates league rules.
The NHL’s failure to act has now established a very bad precedent: every sports franchise in the NHL can now feel free to act as a partisan political action committee without fear of reprisal.
The NHL precedent could well spread to other sports franchises in the NBA, the NFL, and Major League Baseball, though presumably the leadership of those leagues may have more backbone then the leadership of the NHL.
The conversion of the Predators from a sports franchise to a Democratic political action committee, however, has potentially significant consequences for the franchise in Nashville, as well as politics and governance in Metro Nashville/Davidson County, as well as the state of Tennessee as a whole.
Here are the five questions The Tennessee Star posed to the NHL on Monday, which remain unanswered as of today:
1. Did the Nashville Predators ask the NHL for permission to make this endorsement of Acting Mayor David Briley or notify the NHL the endorsement would be made?
2. If so, what was the NHL’s official response to the Nashville Predators?
3. Does the Predators’ endorsement of Acting Mayor David Briley violate the bylaws of the NHL, specifically as those bylaws related to promoting good relations within the community a franchise serves? Many residents of the Metro Nashville area–if not the majority–consider this endorsement a highly divisive act within the community by the Predators.
4. Did the NHL grant the Predators permission to use the Predators logo and mascot in the video in which Predators CEO Sean Henry announced the franchise’s endorsement of Acting Mayor David Briley?
(This from the official NHL website suggests such permission would be required — . “All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises.”)
5. If such permission was required and was not granted, what punitive action will the NHL take against the Nashville Predators franchise?
“It is surprising we have not received a response to our request for comment, sent to you, as a spokesperson for the NHL on Monday morning,” The Star emailed the spokesperson for the NHL on Wednesday morning, adding:
If we hear nothing back from you by 5 pm eastern today, Wednesday, we will be publishing a story with this headline:
NHL Allows Predators to Break Rules, Politicize League, with Endorsement of Far Left Democrat Briley
“We will assume that your failure to respond means you have no objection to this characterization of the NHL’s stance on this issue,” The Star said in that email to the NHL.
The decision by the Predators to turn the franchise’s 20-year old brand into a partisan Democrat political action committee has alienated at least half, if not more, of its Middle Tennessee fan base.
Given the franchise’s condescending arrogance towards the significant portion of its fan base that is conservative or middle-of-the road politically, it would be no surprise to see the Predators go beyond their first partisan act and endorse former Gov. Phil Bredesen, the Democratic candidate in the November general election for the Tennessee U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN).
The lead owner and chairman of the Predators, Thomas Cigarran, has already donated $4,500 to Bredesen’s Senate campaign.
Due to federal election campaign laws, however, the Predators would likely be legally prohibited from making such an endorsement directly as a corporation.
The Predators could easily get around that prohibition by forming their own political action committee, which could endorse and make contributions to federal candidates legally. The Star is unaware of any other professional major league sports franchise that has established such a political action committee, but the owners and management of the Predators appear to pride themselves on being “trail blazers” in forcing their political views on their fan base through the use of their league approved marks and mascot.
State laws in Tennessee, however, recognize corporations as legally the same as political action committees, so the Predator endorsement of Briley, a candidate for a local office, not a federal office, appears to be legally allowed, barring any other complication.
Unfortunately, for the Predators, there is another complication that, while it may technically be legal, is a glaring ethical conflict of interest.
That conflict of interest is the “quid pro quo” in which the Predators endorse Briley for Mayor of Nashville/Davidson County, and a potential Briley administration, in turn, provides the Predators with a significant financial benefit–lower lease expenses–possibly below fair market value–in the current lease negotiations for the Predators’ use of the Metro Nashville controlled Bridgestone Arena.
One outcome the Predators have apparently failed to consider is this: What happens to their Bridgestone Arena lease negotiations if their man in City Hall–Acting Mayor David Briley–loses the special mayoral election?
When voters in Nashville/Davidson County go to the polls today to select their new mayor, the outcome may include a message for the Predators.