Professional athletes have never backed down from the spotlight, whether it’s in game, before or after. Sometimes it’s off-field that athletes and sports make some of their biggest impacts. For instance, charitable organization Nothing But Nets sends three malaria nets to families in Africa for each three-pointer Stephen Curry makes. Richard Sherman is known for his big mouth, but many don’t know that he started Blanket Coverage, a non-profit dedicated to providing clothing and school supplies to low-income students. These athletes hold a lot of influence within our society and when these same athletes speak out, many listen.
Every four years, our country comes to a crossroad where it becomes more divided than it does at any other time: the presidential election. In direct correlation with the presidential election season, the MLB is in the middle of playoffs, the NFL season is in full swing, and the NHL and NBA season are getting underway. Many fans are curious as to what their favorite athletes and teams have to say about the candidates. It sometimes makes for uncomfortable interviews since athletes don’t want to disappoint any of their fans with their political alignment. Some shy away, and some stay neutral, and some pledge their full support.
Former U.S. women’s soccer player Abby Wambach pledged her full support for Hillary Clinton and even spoke at a rally in New Hampshire. Other athletes supporting Hillary Clinton are Laker all-time greats Kareem-Abdul Jabbar and Magic Johnson, NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown, tennis legend Billie Jean King, Olympic medalist Michelle Kwan and the first openly gay NBA player Jason Collins. Trump supporters include hot head Bobby Knight who is the second-winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, the always eccentric Dennis Rodman, the notorious NFL bully Richie Incognito and possibly NFL quarterback Tom Brady, who hasn’t openly voiced his support but has called Trump a “friend.”
Shortly after the Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA Championship, Lebron James was asked about his feelings towards Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavs home venue, playing host to the Republican National Convention, but declined to share his thoughts. James simply expressed his relief that he had finally won a championship for the city of Cleveland. He added that the location was not his arena, and it was therefore out of his jurisdiction to approve what does or doesn’t happen there outside of the NBA season.
ESPN polled a small sample of athletes who chose to remain anonymous across the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL and WNBA to get a feel of what athletes were thinking about the election and the current state of the country. 32.6 percent of the athletes polled considered themselves Democrats, 28.4 percent Republican and 38.9 percent independent/other. 51.9 percent want Hillary to win, 28.6 percent are for Trump and 19.5 percent want neither or another candidate. When asked about race relations over the past four years, 20.9 percent believe it has improved, 65.1 percent believe it has declined, and 14.0 percent believe it’s remained unchanged. An NFL defensive lineman was quoted, saying, “Racism isn’t just now getting bad. It’s just getting filmed.” But when it comes to inside the locker room, many athletes are avoiding conversations surrounding the election because they want to keep their workplace united, though Donald Trump is a common point of discussion.
It’s always interesting looking at the political perspective of athletes, because it tells a lot about what values resonate with them. Fans are invested in who their favorite athletes are voting for because fans invest in their favorite athlete’s character as well. Athletes have been encouraging their fans to go out and vote. Regardless of the impending election’s results, this will be a huge turning point in America’s history — just like it is every other four years. All we can do as fans, of both our favorite athletes and our candidates, is wait and hope that the winner takes the country in a positive direction.
Header Photo Credit: State Department/ Wikimedia Commons