The Obama administration reportedly collaborated with a handful of NFL players on Super Bowl Sunday to promote the Affordable Care Act on a social media site.
Kyle Lierman with the White House Office of Public Engagement sent a memo to a representative of the NFL’s players union with tips on how Obamacare should be praised on social media sites, including Twitter, according to a report from the Washington Free Beacon.
“They can definitely change these up or put their own spin on these,” Lierman wrote in an email, which was obtained by the Beacon. “When folks tweet this out if they or you email me with their handle I can flag it for the @whitehouse and our other twitter handles to be retweeted, etc."
The email offered “some thoughts on what players could tweet."
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 05: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) holds up a jersey given to him by head coach John Harbaugh (R) after welcoming members of the National Football League Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens during a South Lawn ceremony on June 5, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers 34-31 in Super Bowl XLVII (image source: Getty Images)
And based on the content of a number of player tweets sent Sunday, it appears there was indeed White House influence.
“I know about getting injured and getting care. Football players need good healthcare more than anyone #getcovered,” Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo said in a tweet.
The official White House Twitter account later retweeted Ayanbadejo’s message.
Additional pro-Obamacare tweets from the Ravens linebacker contained language allegedly pulled directly from Lierman's email.
“Getting ready for Super Bowl XLVIII… Football fans don’t forget you can affordable healthcare at healthcare.gov #getcovered,” Ayanbadejo added in another tweet.
As it turned out, the White House only retweeted one tweet, from Ayanbadejo. It did not promote tweets from other NFL players, including from former wide receiver Donte Stallworth, who posted, “Football fans, hope you’re getting ready for Super Bowl XLVIII, don’t forget you can #getcovered at healthcare.gov.”
The language in Stallworth's tweet was also supposedly pulled directly from Lierman's list of suggestions.
It seems likely that the White House avoided promoting tweets similar to Ayanbadejo’s because it would have seemed redundant.
A Beacon source said Lierman’s email was forwarded to players’ marketing representatives, meaning most of the players were likely aware of the pro-Obamacare efforts.
After word of the alleged collaboration between NFL players and the White House surface, Ayanbadejo defended himself on Twitter.
“When will these silly republicans that are on my timeline bashing Obamacare realize Mitt Romney created it?” the linebacker asked in a tweet.
“I am on twitter to talk and engage with people. I just love all people. Not here for a Salem witch hunt,” he added. “I am a Obama supporter. I'm not paid. The ACA has helped my family immensely. My mom has many health issues and she is affordable insured.”
“I could have voted Romney & potentially paid less taxes. Id rather pay more & make sure the majority of Americans have gov programs,” he added.
The Baltimore Ravens were awarded a $130,000 contract in 2013 from Maryland’s Obamacare exchange to promote the massive health insurance program.
The NFL is currently operating as a 501(c)6 organization, meaning it’s exempt from paying federal income taxes.
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This post has been updated.