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article imageThe Athlete Vote: Why Pro Sports Stars Are More Politically Active Than Ever

By David Silverberg     Oct 5, 2008 in Sports
Athletes as political activists? It’s become a hot trend, whether it’s baller Baron Davis campaigning for Barack Obama or pitcher Curt Schilling supporting John McCain. And sometimes political leanings don't veer to blue or red camps.
Digital Journal – When Barack Obama announced his candidacy last year, Los Angeles Clipper point guard Baron Davis wrote a cheque for $2,300. The NBA superstar didn’t want to sit on his hands during this election year; he’s been vocal in his support for Obama, emceeing fundraisers and convincing teammates to get involved in Obama’s campaign.
Davis isn’t alone. Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling is throwing his celeb weight behind candidate John McCain. He has publicly supported McCain on his popular blog, and the two have worked together since 2000 on issues ranging from veterans’ benefits to melanoma. Schilling has told reporters about McCain: “I understand at the end of the day that he'll do what's right for us. I think this election is going to come down to something that's been absent for far too long and that's character and integrity.”
As ESPN reports, professional sports figures have given “twice as much money to all presidential candidates combined during this election than they have to candidates in each of the past two races.” The article also found out that athletes have donated $445,334 to the two nominees – 55.8 per cent to McCain and 44.2 percent to Obama. Basketball players overwhelmingly support Obama, while a majority of NFL clubs have given money to the McCain campaign.
In terms of generous donors, the San Diego Chargers have given $23,000 to McCain, and the National Basketball Association awarded Obama with $24,360. The other pro sports teams supporting McCain include the New York Yankees, the Dallas Cowboys, the Arizona Cardinals, the Pheonix Suns and the San Francisco Giants. The Obama-friendly sports teams include the Chicago Cubs, the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling
Curt Schilling supports John McCain
photo by zenmama
So why has McCain courted more sports donors? Sports economist Craig Depken told ESPN Republicans usually leave professional sports empires alone, while Democrats have pushed for more regulations.
But how do athletes vote? Sports Illustrated said there’s a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans. And the common stereotypes don’t hold: athletes who grew up with lefty parents may end up supporting Republicans. As sports agent Leigh Steinberg said: “You know the joke: The definition of a conservative is a liberal who just saw the withholding from his bonus check.”
Then there are athletes whose political stripes are neither blue or red. Sometimes, they’re green. Take Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference, who considers himself an environmentalist. He became chummy with Canadian enviro-guru David Suzuki and soon found himself leaving his hybrid car at home and biking to NHL games. He got so involved he encouraged his teammates to go carbon-neutral by telling them to invest in carbon offsets to crub the players’ harmful impact on the environment. What he told Sports Illustrated could be the mantra for any athlete activist: “We’re showing that we care about something bigger than the size of our cars or how fast our sports cars are. ... To me it’s pretty simple: When you’re a professional athlete and people look up to you, you have a responsibility to represent something.”
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