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OpEdNews Op Eds        10/26/2004

Pro Athletes Support Kerry, Too

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Pro athletes support Kerry, too

By Jackson Thoreau

On Oct. 21, the Bush campaign released a list of professional and Olympic athletes, current and retired, supporting Bush. The list included Karl Malone, Nolan Ryan, Roger Staubach, Ernie Banks, Carlos Beltran, Craig Biggio, John Elway, Bob Feller, Lynn Swann, Jack Nicklaus, Mary Lou Rettig and others.

In the United States, the sports culture is quite important-- the Bush campaign knows that and is bringing out celebrities like Nicklaus in Ohio and Elway in Colorado to help Bush sway voters in those swing states. As a former small college basketball player and sports writer myself, I understand the role sports plays in business and politics. Like it or not, Democrats would be foolhardy to overlook this area.

So it's important to note that Sen. John Kerry has received support from many current and retired athletes himself.

Those include NBA player Grant Hill; former NBA players Bill Walton and Bill Bradley; tennis player Andre Agassi; former tennis player John McEnroe; former NFL players Franco Harris and Alex Karras; former wrestler Jesse Ventura; boxer Lamon Brewster; and Julie Foudy and Abby Wambach, U.S. women's soccer players on the team that won the 2004 Olympic gold medal.

Then there are many who gave money to only Democratic politicians, but not Kerry specifically, so they probably support Kerry over Bush. They include NFL player Emmitt Smith; former NFL players Pettis Norman, Calvin Hill and Chris Zorich; former Major League Baseball player Hank Aaron; former NBA players Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius "Dr. J" Erving, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Isiah Thomas and Tom McMillen; boxer Evander Holyfield; and former tennis players Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King.

Cyclist Lance Armstrong also said in a UK Times articles that he was not a Republican, that his politics were "middle to left" and he very much opposed the war in Iraq. NBA players Steve Nash and Nick Van Exel also opposed that war.

I was impressed with what Foudy said at a recent Wisconsin rally for Kerry: "This [Bush] administration wants to say we're liberators, but actually [people in other countries] see us as oppressors."

Wambach added, "If you're a woman and you're an athlete who has been touched by Title IX, how in the world could you ever want to vote for George Bush?"

A recent article in Londons Guardian explained that the most common reason pro athletes supported Bush was his tax policy "that panders to multimillionaires." Unlike most actors, many sports figures do not speak out because they dont want to affect their endorsements, their marketability, their bottom line.

NFL player and Bush supporter Jason Sehorn explained it this way: "In most of the locker rooms you'll find a little more Republican (support) than Democrat, at least thinking and leaning towards that way. I think because we understand that, you know, we're very capable and adept at taking care of ourselves, and we don't need somebody to place a lot of regulations. I mean, put things in place so I can take care of myself and protect me."

It's a bit easier to be "adept at taking care of ourselves" and to "protect me" when you make seven or eight figures a year. But not all athletes only think of themselves, or their endorsements, as exhibited by what Grant Hill said at a recent Kerry rally.

"This is the most important election of our lifetime," Hill said. "People have died, people have gone through a lot so someone like myself could have a chance to have their voice heard."

Let's hope we hear it by counting all the votes, despite the voter intimidation tactics employed by Republicans and dirty tricks planned by Republicans, like challenging Democrats voting qualifications to cause delays at polling sites. If they are all counted properly, we know that Kerry will win this most important game of our lifetime.

And unlike Gore, who made the ultimate sports mistake by conceding after he scored the most points in 2000, Kerry is making plans not to fall behind if the battle goes into overtime.

Jackson Thoreau [jacksonthor@yahoo.com or jacksonthor@juno.com] is a Washington, D.C.-area journalist/writer. The latest book to which he contributed, Big Bush Lies, was published by RiverWood Books of Ashland, Ore., and is available in Barnes and Noble and other bookstores across the country.



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