Interference: Tagliabue covered up Saban's support for filibuster in sports-industry petition on Senate bill

(AP Photo/John Amis)

An extraordinarily dumb move for this prominent eminence grise for a league whose strategy in normal times usually looks like the Dallas Cowboys’ final 14 seconds of their 2021 season. Last week, as the entertainment industry tried to pressure Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema into destroying the filibuster, former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue released a letter signed by West Virginia sports legends, including current Alabama head coach Nick Saban, urging Manchin to vote for the underlying election-federalizing bill.

However, Saban had one reservation — and as it turns out, a very critical one that Tagliabue kept quiet:

Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Alabama coach Nick Saban agreed to leave out a footnote clarifying Saban’s stance on changing U.S. Senate filibuster rules from the public version of a letter sent to West Virginia senator Joe Manchin, and from a press release publicizing the letter earlier this week.

“Coach Saban and I agreed that since the letter focused on the merits of the Freedom to Vote Act and the filibuster had not been discussed with everyone signing the letter, it was unnecessary to include the filibuster footnote in the letter to be publicly distributed,” Tagliabue wrote in a statement provided late Wednesday afternoon to AL.com after a comment was requested Tuesday. “As a result, our press statement along with the letter released publicly did not address the filibuster issue.”

The Jan. 13 letter — which was co-signed by Saban and other West Virginia sports figures in Jerry West, Oliver Luck and Darryl Talley — urged the passage of the voting rights bill that is currently being considered by the Senate. The bill would standardize election laws across the country and restore provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

CNN got wind of Saban’s footnote the next day, however, which interfered a bit with the Left’s pressure campaign on the filibuster:

By the time the Senate had taken up the filibuster vote, Tagliabue came clean to AL.com. He claimed that Saban agreed to go along with the deception, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why insist on the footnote in the letter to Manchin and Sinema but then try to keep it out of the media?

Last night, Manchin made sure to push back against the deception publicly, making sure to highlight the footnote in yellow in his screencap for Twitter. He also questioned why the signatories tried to cover it up in the first place:

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) touted Alabama football coach Nick Saban’s opposition to changing the filibuster on Twitter Thursday after receiving backlash for voting against changes to the procedure.

“​​Coach Saban is exactly right: you cannot throw the filibuster out and expect the legislative process to work better. I wholeheartedly agree with the coaches that ‘Our democracy is at its best when all Americans are encouraged to participate,’” Manchin said. …

“Nick Saban at the bottom of his letter — which they didn’t put, Paul Tagliabue didn’t put what Nick Saban wrote at the bottom, his footnote, he supports the filibuster,” Manchin said Tuesday. “Do not get rid of the filibuster. Now why did he automatically leave that out?”

Why? Because the filibuster demand has been dishonest from the start. Five years ago, the same people who now claim to be saving the Senate and democracy by bulldozing the filibuster demanded that Mitch McConnell “save the Senate” by opposing Donald Trump’s demands for elimination of the legislative filibuster — which McConnell repeatedly and successfully did. This demonstrates the broader dishonesty of the Left and the woke entertainment-sports establishment on such issues.

It’s a shame that Saban couldn’t have acted with a little more integrity in this instance. But at least Manchin and Sinema did.