Ed Snider is a man with two missions in life -- one that I wholeheartedly support, and another that I don't, some parts of which I in fact find repulsive. His day job is to bring a championship to Philadelphia with the two teams that he runs through Comcast-Spectacor, the Flyers and the 76ers. Although he hasn't succeeded in 25 years, he tends to be what we want in a sports owner here in Philly, willing to spend money (albeit sometimes foolishly) or shake things up if that's what's needed on the ice or on the hardwood. So far, so good.
In his spare time, he takes the millions of dollars that he's earned with the blessings of the Philadelphia sports fan and used a big chunk of it to promote conservative causes, moving increasingly to the far right with each passing political season. That's his right in a free society, but I also believe that running a pro sports franchise in a big city like Philadelphia is a kind of a public trust. That may explain why state and city taxpayers were willing to lend a financial hand -- $20 million, according to this article -- to help Snider construct the CoreStates/First Union.Wachovia/Citi/Wells Fargo Center back in the mid-1990s.
Sports and politics should not mix, not here and not now, less than four weeks before such a critical presidential election. But that's exactly what rabid GOP supporter Ed Snider will be doing this weekend, inviting "hockey mom" Sarah Palin to drop the ceremonial first puck at the Flyers' season opener, and more. Here's from the Flyers' own release:
Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the nation’s most popular hockey mom, will join the winner of the Philadelphia Flyers regional search for the “Ultimate Hockey Mom” contest and drop the puck at the ceremonial opening face-off as the home team Flyers host the New York Rangers at the Wachovia Center on Saturday, October 11 at 7 p.m.
“Because of the tremendous amount of publicity she has brought to our sport, we invited the most popular hockey mom in North America to our home opener to help us get our season started,” said Comcast-Spectacor Chairman Ed Snider who founded the Flyers in 1967. “We are very excited she has accepted our offer and we are very proud of the publicity she is generating for hockey moms and the sport of hockey.”
Pretty clever, huh, how the news release happens to omit the fact that Palin is the Republican vice presidential candidate. Maybe Ed Snider is a little ashamed at what he's trying to pull here. He should be. Do you think he's going to extend the same courtesy to the Democratic vice presidential hopeful, Joe Biden, who actually comes from a state where the Flyers have thousands of fans? (It could be fun -- Biden dropping the puck with Bernie Parent and "Dr. Pistone," as "the nation's most popular hair plug recipient"...but I digress.) Of course not. Because Ed Snider is taking his public trust and abusing badly, for his political cause. Talk about game misconduct!
Not many Philadelphians even know about Ed Snider's politics, because most of the time we didn't have to. But he's quite far to the political right, a devoted acolyte of the late conservative icon Ayn Rand, funding an institute based on her principles and giving speeches about her. (A Philadelphia Magazine profile of Snider said he won't read anything in the Inquirer except for the sports sections because the paper's too liberal for him.) Fair enough, but in the last two years Snider has veered off. Even though his beloved Rand did not believe in pre-emptive war, Snider is now a major financial support of continuing our very wrongheaded pre-emptive war in Iraq and sending new storm clouds over its neighbor, Iran.
According to numerous news accounts, Snider is a leading donor to the group Freedom's Watch, which is spending millions (here's the repulsive part I mentioned up top) promoting its lethal policies in the Middle East and right-wing candidates like Sarah Palin and John McCain who support that agenda. Arising from a 2007 meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, one of Freedom Watch's first efforts (employing former Bush White House aide Ari Fleisher as its spokesman) was a $15 million ad campaign in support of the troop "surge" in Iraq that falsely conflated that war with 9/11. (Says a military veteran, over shots of the World Trade Center, "They attacked us, and they will again. They won’t stop in Iraq.") The group also once had ambitious plans to stir up American public sentiment against the regime in Iran, although that seems to have taken a back seat in recent months to so-far failed efforts to elect Republicans to Congress in special elections (perhaps because the Bush administration itself seems to be no longer angling for a showdown with Tehran).
In addition, Snider has donated more than $32,000 to candidates for federal office and political parties in this cycle, all to Republicans, including the maximum $4,600 to John McCain and $20,400 to the Republican National Committee. When Palin was in Philadelphia last month during the first presidential debate, Snider accompanied her to a debate-watching party.
Now, he's making a huge in-kind donation to the McCain-Palin campaign in the arena that we taxpayers kicked in for, giving her a chance to skate her stuff in from of 19,500 mostly upscale male hockey fans from the swing suburbs outside Philly. It will be a warm and fuzzy "hockey mom" event that will make people forget about her ugly and hate-filled rallies of the last week, where she charged that the Democratic candidate for president "pals around with terrorists" as a lynch-mob of an audience hooted and yelled out things like "kill him." (Odd as it sounds, hockey fans are more polite than Palin fans.)
Flyers fans should be outraged -- even conservative ones, because this misuse of a hockey game for his political agenda is flat out wrong. I don't think that Philadelphia fans should boo -- we're all getting a little tired of that stereotype, eh -- or act as rude as the people at Palin's rallies, but I do think that anyone who's as offended by this as I am should stand up Saturday night and turn their back on Sarah Palin, and especially turn their back on Ed Snider.
And send Snider a message to take his politics off of Philadelphia's sacred hockey ice and back to the privacy of his his mansion on the Main Line, where it belongs.