Washington Nationals Use Teddy Roosevelt Mascot To Promote Obamacare


Teddy Roosevelt (Credit: AP)

Teddy Roosevelt (Credit: AP)

The Obama administration has been looking to partner with professional sports teams and leagues to help promote President Obama’s landmark health care reform law, and Tuesday night, they found their first one. The Washington Nationals’ popular presidential mascot, Teddy Roosevelt, appeared in a short promotional video about the law’s programs that aired during the game as part of “HHS Night,” an event for the Department of Health and Human Services.

The promotional video isn’t a long-term partnership, though. Instead, it’s a one-time thing, according to both Nationals and HHS officials, the Wall Street Journal reports:

There is no official partnership with the Nationals to promote health insurance this fall, according to an administration official. “As part of the annual HHS group outing to the Nationals game, the Nationals incorporated the HHS community into the evening in several ways, as they do with other large group events. Our participation included the opportunity to throw out the first pitch and create a PSA for use exclusively on the big screen on that night,” said HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters.

A Nationals spokeswoman agreed, saying “it was a onetime showing of the PSA last night in conjunction with the HHS group ticket sale” and there are no further plans to use the video.

As I argued when the White House pursued deals with the NBA and NFL, these sorts of partnerships make sense for both sides because they allow the administration to reach demographics the law needs and can benefit, and it allows leagues to look like quality corporate citizens that care about their fans. And it makes sense for the Nationals too, and not just because Theodore Roosevelt proposed his own major overhaul of the nation’s health care system in 1912.

It’s understandable when teams and leagues don’t want to “get political,” but this isn’t political anymore. It’s the law and it isn’t going anywhere. It isn’t about scoring political points, but about telling people about new health initiatives in which they might be eligible to participate. If commercials and promotional videos during sporting events can do that, that’s a good thing — and leagues and franchises obviously feel the same way since they do it so often. The Nats, as the Journal noted, have partnered with HHS to promote flu prevention initiatives and sustainable environmental development policies before.

Conservatives might blow steam, but there’s no reason for the leagues to worry about it, because they aren’t going to quit watching or quit going to games because of it. As far as I can tell, there wasn’t a mass walk-out of Republican or conservative fans after the video ran at the game last night, at least not one that wasn’t sparked by the team’s sixth consecutive loss since the All-Star Break. And from where I’m sitting, it appears Washington D.C., Nationals Park, and Major League Baseball are all still standing. So instead of worrying about backlash from one subset of fans, the teams and leagues might find that they’d benefit from promoting health initiatives that could help their fanbases, just as they do with so many other issues they already support.