NFL has ‘no plans’ to promote Obamacare

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(CNN) — The National Football League has “no plans” to work with the Obama administration in educating the public about the president’s controversial health care reform, according to an NFL spokesman.

Earlier this week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the NFL and a “variety of sports affiliates” had been “enthusiastically engaged” with the administration over the idea.

The top two Republicans in the Senate cautioned the league against teaming up for the project, saying in a letter Friday the NFL would “risk damaging” its nonpartisan reputation by getting involved in a highly divisive issue.

But Brian McCarthy, vice president of communications at the NFL, said in an email that the league has responded to letters they received from members of Congress.

“We currently have no plans to engage in this area and have had no substantive contact with the administration about (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s) implementation,” McCarthy said.

The Obama administration is embarking on a major campaign to spread the word about the upcoming health care changes. It launched a website on Monday and plans to roll out a series of educational efforts this summer before open enrollment for the marketplace exchanges begins on October 1–about a month after the start of the football season.

Sebelius had pointed to the example set by the Boston Red Sox, who paired up with the commonwealth of Massachusetts in 2007 to urge residents to sign up for the state’s health insurance plan. The team used television ads to get out the message, and Fenway Park hosted a health care kiosk at home games and held a themed health care night. They also included informational inserts in their programs.

“We know the Red Sox were incredibly effective in Massachusetts … so it’s a logical place to go,” Sebelius told reporters Monday.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn advised the NFL that it would not be a smart move.

“Given the divisiveness and persistent unpopularity of the health care [law], 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,” they wrote in a letter.

In addition to the NFL, the letter was sent to the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, National Hockey League, Professional Golf Association and the chairman and chief executive officer of NASCAR.

McConnell and Cornyn argued the situation around Massachusetts’ health care reform was far different from the federal package passed in 2010.

“For example, the Massachusetts law was adopted by large bi-partisan majorities in a Democratic legislature and signed by a Republican governor,” the letter stated. “Obamacare was passed on a party-line vote, using extraordinary legislative gimmicks and widely ridiculed political favors to win passage.”

More than half of Americans oppose the law. According to a CNN/ORC International Poll last month, 43% favor the Affordable Care Act, while 54% oppose it. It’s worth noting that a significant chunk of the opposition comes from people who say the law does not go far enough. Overall, 35% oppose the law because it is too liberal; 16% say they oppose it because it is not liberal enough.

CNN’s Steve Brusk contributed to this report.