SBD/10/Sports Society

WHY ARE ATHLETES RELUCTANT TO JUMP ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL?

          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).

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