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WHY ARE ATHLETES RELUCTANT TO JUMP ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL?
Published November 10, 1999
Democratic Presidential candidate Bill Bradley will hold a campaign fund raiser on Sunday at MSG called the "Afternoon of Champions and Legends." Tickets for the event cost up to $1,000 each, and attendees will include Bill Walton, Julius Erving, Calvin and Grant Hill, Spike Lee, Rebecca Lobo, John McEnroe, and Wes Unseld (Bradley for President). In a Sports cover story, USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand writes on the "large contingent of sports people getting involved in politics" by backing Bradley in the 2000 election. But the Bradley campaign "hasn't broken through that reticence among active athletes," as Grant Hill is the "only active athlete scheduled to appear at Sunday's event." GOP political consultant Eddie Mahe: "By and large, the athletic community has not been political. We always look to get athletes involved in campaigns, but it's really, really tough. Their agents won't let them. ... Getting involved in a campaign could diminish their value in the commercial marketplace." Agent Leonard Armato: "You're bound to alienate somebody. I advise them to embrace good causes, not politicians, to minimize the fallout." Responding to reports that his client, Shaquille O'Neal, endorsed VP Al Gore, Armato said, "He didn't necessarily endorse him. Sometimes, it's difficult to know when he's joking." Agent Leigh Steinberg said political stands can "absolutely" hurt athletes' marketability. Steinberg is close to backing Bradley, but said he "isn't sure who I can and can't deliver, in terms of players" (USA TODAY, 11/10). LARRY'S MILLION DOLLAR LEGEND: NEWSWEEK lists Padres President & CEO Larry Lucchino and Lakers coach Phil Jackson as members of Team Bradley. Lucchino is listed under "big fund-raisers," as he "promised [Bradley he would] raise" $1M in Southern CA (NEWSWEEK, 11/15 issue).