San Jose mayoral candidate wins unusual endorsement from 49ers execs
Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez announced her run for San Jose mayor at an event outside her home in September 2021. Photo by Eli Wolfe.

    Executives from the San Francisco 49ers football team are showing support for Supervisor Cindy Chavez’s mayoral campaign—an unusual maneuver for a team that isn’t based in San Jose.

    Chavez announced endorsements on Tuesday from 49ers CEO Jed York and President Al Guido. The duo issued statements applauding Chavez for serving San Jose and Santa Clara County for more than 20 years, citing her work that ensured distribution of COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, as well as expanding public transportation access.

    “During the peak of the pandemic, Cindy Chavez was a key partner in ensuring that the community had access to the resources they needed, including readily available COVID vaccines,” York said in a statement.

    Neither York nor Guido responded to a request for comment.

    It’s unclear whether York or Guido have ever endorsed political candidates outside of Santa Clara, although York donated money to Gov. Gavin Newsom to fight his recall and to Vice President Kamala Harris during her senate campaign. They didn’t endorse any candidates in San Jose’s 2014 mayoral race.

    Inside Santa Clara, the 49ers have helped finance candidates to run against political opponents. They have also feuded with Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor over rent for Levi’s Stadium, the team’s management of stadium operations and curfew for weeknight events and concerts.

    Chavez, who did not respond to a request for comment, said in a statement she appreciated York and Guido for allowing Levi’s Stadium to be used as a COVID-19 testing and vaccination site.

    San Jose policies can directly impact the 49ers’ operations in Santa Clara, which borders the city. Levi’s Stadium, which opened as a vaccination site in February, was the largest vaccination site in California, serving thousands of doses a day to residents from around the region. The team also relies on local transit to bring fans to the stadium. Chavez, who serves on the VTA board of directors, helped oversee the transit agency’s partial light rail reopening in August, which provided some service for people traveling to see a preseason NFL game at Levi’s Stadium.

    Political insiders in Santa Clara believe there is another reason that may have pushed the 49ers executives to join Chavez’s camp, and one that might speak to the broader support she’ll receive during her campaign.

    “I believe Ronnie Lott is the catalyst for the 49ers coming aboard the Cindy Chavez campaign,” political consultant and columnist Rich Robinson told San José Spotlight.

    Lott is a Pro Football Hall of Famer who played 10 years with the 49ers football team in the 1980s. He was part of the 49ers dynasty that won four Super Bowls. He is considered one of the greatest players to suit up in the safety position and revered in the South Bay. After his football career, Lott founded All Stars Helping Kids, which connects youth in low-income communities with educational support.

    Lott appears to be throwing his support behind Chavez. According to an invite reviewed by San José Spotlight, Lott will appear as a special guest at a Chavez fundraiser on Dec. 27. Guests who donate more than $500 will receive a signed football from Lott.

    Lott told San José Spotlight he is friends with Chavez and she has helped him become a better leader.

    “(I’ve) seen her deal with tough moments and I’ve seen her lose and seen her help so many people,” he said.

    This isn’t the first time Lott has supported Chavez’s mayoral ambitions. He appeared with Chavez when she announced her mayoral campaign in 2005. Lott also appeared at a campaign event for Chavez’s rival at the time, Michael Mulcahy, according to media reports.

    Contact Eli Wolfe at [email protected] or @EliWolfe4 on Twitter.

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