Tag Archives: Athletes and Their Politics

Ballin’ Mayoral Candidates

Two former NBAers are vying for the mayoralties of two of America’s largest cities. In Detroit, former Piston Dave Bing just picked up the endorsement of the Free Press, and in Seattle former Sonic and Washington State Cougar James Donaldson announced his candidacy.

Obviously, it’s Bing who, if victorious, has the toughest, most impossible job ahead:

Detroit’s problem is rooted in the transformation that the US economy is undergoing.

Old manufacturing regions such as this have been declining for some time.

There is a budget crisis. Rising unemployment and population loss have reduced the amount of tax revenue coming in. Vehicle sales are falling in an area whose economy is dominated by the so-called “Big Three” car manufacturers. House prices have been tumbling.

In Detroit, the population too has been falling for years. In the middle of the last century almost two million people lived in the city. Today it is less than a million, as people have moved out to the suburbs.

Detroit’s challenge is to manage the loss of people, jobs and revenue, without allowing the city to fall further into despair. It is a tough job.

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Demise of the Activist-Athlete

A thought-provoking quote from Celtics guard Ray Allen on LeBron James:

“Mike (Michael Jordan) paved the way for all of us to open up the endorsement door. But the one thing that Mike never was is political. I think in today’s era, the NBA player has an even greater podium if he chooses to use it. And with Barack Obama being the first black president, it’s a great forum. I think that would separate him from anybody who’s done this. … It’s great to be a basketball player, but to transcend sports is a big responsibility. If he were able to pull that off — if he wants to pull that off — I think that would set him apart.”

Jordan was, of course, famously apolitical. Whether it was his perhaps apocryphal remark that “Republicans buy shoes, too” or his refusal to endorse the black challenger to Jesse Helms’ North Carolina senate seat, Jordan chose to remain above the fray. In my view, this is merely a personal choice and not a moral failing (although I’m critical of Jordan’s silence on Helms).

Famous athletes, as far as I’m concerned, are obligated to obey the law and be charitable. (And I mean charity in the genuine sense, not in the “sham foundation” sense or the “coerced by Frank McCourt” sense.) It’s not incumbent upon them to be politically active.

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Baseball to Dominate Kentucky Senate Race?

Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning, a member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame, is facing a tough road toward reelection and maybe even a tough primary. If, however, he makes it to the general, then Democratic Rep. Ben Chandler may be waiting to take him on. That’s notable because Ben Chandler is the grandson of Happy Chandler. That’s notable because Happy Chandler was commissioner of baseball from 1945-51. Four years after Chandler was forced out of office (mostly for backing Branch Rickey’s plan to integrate the game), Bunning made his major-league debut with the Tigers. Ah, the symmetry of spolitics …

Elsewhere–Michigan to be precise–former NBAer Dave Bing is running for mayor of Detroit, and former Michigan State head football coach George Perles is running for governor.

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Petty the Pol

Racing luminary Richard Petty is a Republican candidate for Secretary of State in North Carolina. He’s running against Democrat Elaine Marshall, who’s held the office since 1997. They’re tight in the polls.

Elsewhere, Russian tennis star Vera Zvonareva aspires to work for the U.N. one day, and hurdler Liu Xiang is now a member of a powerful Chinese parliamentary body.

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The Next Athlete-Politician?

Interesting Buffalo News profile of Bills guard Brad Butler.

Butler is closing in on a political science degree from the University of Virginia, and he spent the summer interning for former Congressman and former veep candidate Jack Kemp. Here’s what Kemp had to say about Butler:

“Brad is an absolutely charming guy, smart, witty, extremely humble and for lack of a better phrase, a gentle giant. I don’t think I’ve met a guy in professional football in a long time who has the same maturity, the same desire to build a post-football career and who thinks about the future and developing door-opening opportunities like Brad.”

It’s apparent that Butler is an ambitious and informed young man, and one day he’ll likely have a dossier worthy of political office. Here’s hoping his years in the NFL don’t rob him of his faculties.

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David Ortiz – U.S. Citizen, Smart Guy

Hearty congratulations and a warm welcome to Big Papi, my new fellow U.S. citizen. Clearly, he understands what a great country this is, and he also understands the value of discretion. This from the Globe piece:

“When pressed by reporters, Ortiz did not endorse a presidential candidate.”

It’s certainly not fair that celebrities and other non-political public figures can’t opine on current affairs without inducing eye rolls from the rest of us. But that’s how it is. (Actually, people get the vapors only when a celebrity says something with which they disagree, but most of us ignore this distinction.) So that Ortiz passed on endorsing McCain or Obama speaks to his sense of prudence.

Rest assured, some bloc of partisans on the hunt for fresh outrages would’ve grandly sworn him off if he picked the other guy. Thankfully, though, in those citizenship classes they must have taught him about our inalienable right to say, “none of your damn business.”

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