If you follow sports, at some point you've heard your favorite athlete or coach drop the "it's a business" cliche. Generally fans find this annoying, but there is no denying the truth in the statement.

When moving into the Oval Office in 2009, President Obama ordered new lobbyist rules to try to control their influence in Washington, D.C.

But it's not just Google and Apple spending truckloads of legal tender to gain political favor. Big-time American professional sports leagues have moved into the seedy underworld of Beltway backroom dealing.

Interestingly, the National Football League led the way among sports lobby groups with more $1.6 million spent in 2011 on internal lobbyists and four outside lobby shops. First Street Research reports the NFL attempted to gain political favor on player safety, drug testing, broadcasting and even Internet gambling.

Furthermore, the NFL concentrated on the Federal Aviation Administration to reauthorize the use of drones in U.S. airspace. Unmanned aircraft did fly over Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis as the Giants beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl (for security reasons).

Major League Baseball, at $520,000 in 2011, was the second biggest spender among major sports organizations on lobbyists. Bud Selig's lawyers lobbied to protect the cash cow that is MLB.com with Internet piracy rules. In addition, mental health programs for veterans and stadium safety received attention, according to First Street Research.

The NBA spent just $85,000 on lobbyists, which ranked 11th among sports leagues, while the NHL stays away from Capitol Hill, spending less than $5,000 to gain political favor in the past year.

Dana White's Ultimate Fighting Championship was a surprising third in spending for 2011, behind only the big boys from the NFL and MLB.

The popular mixed martial arts organization invested $410,000 on political lobbyists.

During the first quarter of 2012, the UFC has spent $110k, second only to the NFL when it comes to shelling out for Washington lobbyists.

-- Follow Ben Maller on Twitter @BenMaller.

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