NFL... we'll pass on pimping Obamacare, thanks

Kathleen Sebelius isn’t having a stellar week in terms of getting groups on board to promote Obamacare. Yes, she had something of a win with librarians earlier, but her more recent efforts seem to be falling on deaf ears. One place where she’s pushing to find public opinion movers is in major league sports, looking for these highly visible organizations to begin “promoting the health law’s opportunities” as she did with the librarians. The most highly rated of these groups – the National Football League – has apparently read the writing on the wall and decided to take a pass.

The National Football League is used to big, bruising battles. But on Friday, it announced that it was likely staying out of one of the roughest fights in Washington: the war over Obamacare.

Earlier this week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius disclosed that the Obama administration was in talks with the sports organization to help promote the law, which enters a new phase as advocates prepare to begin enrolling millions of Americans in health insurance this fall.

… NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league had not made any commitment to the administration.

“We have responded to the letters we received from members of Congress to inform them we currently have no plans to engage in this area and have had no substantive contact with the administration about [the health-care law’s] implementation,” he said in an e-mail.

The “letter” in question refers to a note sent out by the Senate GOP on the subject of HHS asking the sports leagues to pitch in and help.

“It is difficult to understand why an organization like yours would risk damaging its inclusive and apolitical brand by lending its name to its promotion,” Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) wrote in a letter to six major sports organizations, including the NFL and Major League Baseball.

In the end, the question put forth in that letter is the real issue here, far more so than the national debate over Obamacare. Why on Earth would the NFL be interested in dipping a toe in this mess – either for or against – in the first place? What good would it do them, or anyone else? The league gets involved in a lot of different charitable efforts, the majority of which I agree with and find to be a totally valid use of the NFL’s time, money and popular appeal. These range from charities seeking to cure various diseases and support the families of those battling them to youth activities promoting sports, exercise and health. And it’s nice to see them giving something back to the community.

But regardless how you feel about the law itself, this remains a largely political question. It involves issues of the power of the federal government versus the states and the individual far more than how many people have what kind of health insurance. The NFL is one of the few iconic, giant institutions in the nation which serve all of us, (unless you’re a Jets fan, of course) and turning it into a political stalking horse just pulls blocks out of its foundation. This was a good move on the part of the NFL, and I would say that even if they were refusing to support a political position I believed in strongly. We can get all the information we need from the usual sources, and I don’t need the NFL promoting responsible gun ownership, no matter how much I would accept their premise. I’d rather they get back to explaining what the heck is going on with Tebow.

But don’t worry, Ms. Sebelius. You can still use federal money to train students to indoctrinate their parents on it.