Sports stars who are openly political.

I was thinking the other day about Muhammed Ali and his conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War, and i also remembered the attention baseball player Carlos Delgado attracted a couple of years ago when he stayed in the dugout during the playing of the national anthem to protest against the Iraq war.

So i thought i’d see if we could start a list of politically committed sports players who are open about their politics. I’m thinking here of politics broadly conceived, not just in narrow party terms.

Having said that, i’d sort of like to avoid making this a list of players who do charity work. Sure, much philanthropic work is rooted in some sort of moral or political position, but there’s not much that’s politically controversial or contentious about, for example, helping in a soup kitchen or visiting kids with cancer. Participating in pro-choice or anti-abortion campaigns, or in gun rights issues, however, would qualify. And obviously, vocal support for a political party is a clear indicator.

You get the idea. Obviously there’ll be some grey areas; if you’re unsure, throw it in.

By the way, sports-related threads seem to end up all over the place. I stuck this in IMHO, but if it belongs somewhere else, feel free to move it.

The appropriately named Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling is a very vocal Bush supporter.

Do former athletes count? There are more than a few politicians I can think of - Tom Mcmillen, Bill Bradley, and Jim Buning all served in Congress (Bunning’s still there), and former Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver Lynn Swann is currently running for governor of Pennsylvania.

Ernie Ladd appeared at a prayer breakfast at the last GoP convention.

Here is the Wikipedia entry for Pakistani cricketer turned politician Imran Khan.

As a bonus, the Australians find him quite sexy.

Well, among current athletes, NBA point guard and two-time MVP Steve Nash (a Canadian, mind you) is very vocal on several political issues. He’s a big-time opponent of the Iraq War, for one thing.

Among former star athletes who’ve gone into politics, let’s not forget old quarterback Jack Kemp, and former Canadiens goaltender Ken Dryden.

Muhammad Ali was pretty vocal in his opposition to the Vietnam War back in the day.

Steve Largent was a Congressman, as was J. C. Watts, a college football star who played professionally in Canada, but not in the NFL.

Mets and Yankees pitcher Al Leiter was – and still is – quite involved in Republican politics. He wasn’t vocal, but would make his feelings known if asked.

Tom Seaver took out an ad opposing the Vietnam war in 1969, and is quoted as saying, “If the Mets can win the World Series, the US can get out of Vietnam.” Since the Mets had just won the World Series, he got very little criticism for it.

Thanks for the replies. Keep 'em coming.

I’ll add another one of my own, although it’s one that some people might not construe as overtly political.

A few years before i moved to the US, Australian rugby league player Ian Roberts became the first big-name professional sportsman in Australia (i think) to come out as gay. Now, some might argue that merely coming out isn’t a political act, but i think that, given the level of homophobia that still exists in society, and in male sports in particular, there is a certain political significance attached to it.

Of course, any reasonable person realizes that there must be considerable numbers of gay athletes at all levels of just about every professional sport, and the fact that openly gay (male) sports stars are almost nonexistent speaks to the political climate that surrounds the issue.

There are plenty of jokes and digs about the level of lesbianism in women’s sports, although some of those seem to based more on attitudes to women who defy gender stereotypes than on actual numbers. Still, it does seem that more women athletes than men are openly gay. The first one that comes to mind right now is WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes, who came out about a year ago. There are also, i believe, some tennis players, like Amelie Mauresmo, who are openly gay. The fact that one of Mauresmo’s own competitors referred to her as “half a man” gives some idea about the pressures faced by gay athletes who come out.

Kazuyasu Hata, who was a sumo wrestler under the name Kyokudozan, left the sport to serve in parliament from 1996 to 2000.

Are you asking about athletes who have actually gone on to seek or hole public office? Alexander Karelin, the greatest Greco-Roman wrestler of all time, has served in the Russian legislature as a member of the United Russia party (right-center; it’s Putin’s party).

However, I get the feeling that what you’re really asking about is current or recent athletes who are vocal about their personal politics. Is that right?

Let us not forget Tommie Smith and John Carlos.

Yeah, i’m most interested in athletes who are/were vocal about or known for their politics during their actual sporting career. The case of the post-career athlete-turned-politician is less interesting to me.

Great example. Not sure how i forgot it, considering that i was reading about them again only a few weeks ago.

Do you consider campaign contributions to be openly political?

Political Donations by Sports Figures

You can also search Political Moneyline by employer to see if anyone from the local club is a donor.

Wow, David Stern has given almost a million bucks to the Dems.

Thanks for the link; it makes for some very interesting reading. Although it seems that most of those giving big money are actually owners and executives, rather than players.

One reason i started this thread, i guess, was in response to the reaction that Carlos Delgado got when he didn’t come out for the anthem. The next time he played in New York (and other ballparks) he was roundly jeered, and the crowd started chanting “USA! USA!” at him. Of course, Delgado is himself a US citizen, making the chant rather pointless.

I’m interested in the response (of lack thereof) that players get from fans etc. when they are open about their politics during their time as athletes.

mhendo, you might find this article worth reading.

Oh. I was going to mention a former pitching prospect who I think became involved in politics somehow, but never mind. His name was Fidel Castro. :slight_smile:

Great article! Thanks for the link.

As someone who only moved to the US a few years ago, i’m still catching up on sporting lore and history that are part of most Americans’ lives.

I never realized that Castro had played baseball, so i went to look up the details.

According to Snopes, it’s an urban legand.

Although perhaps your smiley suggests that you already knew that.