SBD/Issue 40/Law & Politics

Dan Rooney Took Big Risk, Received Flak For Supporting Obama

Rooney Gave Obama Steelers
Jersey At Rally In Pittsburgh
Steelers Chair Dan Rooney, a Republican, voted for President-elect Barack Obama in this year's election, and it was "not without risk that the Patriarch of Pittsburgh's most prominent family ... would openly endorse a political candidate," according to the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE's Gene Collier, who wrote under the header, "Why Dan Rooney Fell For Obama." Rooney's son Jim Rooney said, "There was just a visceral connection between my father and Obama. He loved how enthusiastic young people were getting for him, and when you get to my father's age, you start to hope the future is bright for generations beyond." Prior to voicing his support for Obama, Rooney, "staunchly anti-abortion, was about to help drive the bus for a candidate who was unequivocally behind abortion rights." But Rooney's "well-intentioned strategy crashed spectacularly" October 27, when he presented Obama with a Steelers jersey at a rally at Mellon Arena. One Steelers fan sent Rooney an e-mail that said, "Shame on you!" While other precincts "reported slightly lesser degrees of outrage, the general aggravation focused on the evident symbolism." Rooney, following Obama's victory over John McCain, said, "I don't want to be flippant about it, but I, as an individual, have a right to back a candidate. The guy who runs Wal-Mart, isn't he allowed to have an opinion? The Steelers as an organization do not get involved in politics, but that does not mean that people in the organization can't get involved in political activities, which are part of democracy. As for the jersey, our marketing department hands out jerseys all the time" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 11/9).

STARS & STRIPES FOREVER: In N.Y., Bill Madden wrote with Obama proclaiming himself to be a lifelong White Sox fan, could the White Sox become "America's team?" White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf is "admittedly overwhelmed at this stunning turn of good fortune for his long-neglected, largely ignored franchise." Reinsdorf: "First of all, it's an historic time for the nation, something we can all be proud of whether you're a Republican or a Democrat. For us, though, it's something beyond your greatest dream. The first African-American President and he's a White Sox fan, his picture on the front page of every newspaper in the country wearing a White Sox cap? Eat your heart out, George [Steinbrenner]!" Reinsdorf added, "From a national scope this is tremendous for us. We're already working on an Obama bobblehead doll night with him wearing a White Sox cap. We're going to milk this for all we can get" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/9).

HOOP DREAMS: In N.Y., Harvey Araton wrote Obama is a "baseball fan, but he's a basketball player," and NBA Commissioner David Stern "asked not what Obama might do for basketball, but what basketball might do for Obama." Stern said of Obama's presidency, "I think this is a huge deal for our country and the world. Forget about our brand as it relates to this. The question is, what can we do to help him?" Araton wrote, "Even factoring in the league's occasional mayhem and behavioral mishaps, it is after nearly a quarter-century of Stern's reign impossible not to credit the NBA for being the industry leader in the creation of black cultural icons and the promotion of African-Americans into coaching and management positions in many of the league's 30 franchises" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/9).

Garnett Says "Embrace Change" Slogan On 
Shoes Part Of Becoming More Politically Active
FASHION STATEMENTS: Celtics F Kevin Garnett last Tuesday wore custom adidas shoes featuring the slogan "Embrace change." In Memphis, Ronald Tillery reported Garnett originally sought to print "Obama for Change," but that idea was "nixed by the NBA." Garnett said of the shoes, "The whole purpose of this is not necessarily to get my political views out there. ... I've been an athlete for a long time, and now I'd like to become a little more active politically" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 11/9). In DC, Michael Lee reported Wizards G Gilbert Arenas "decided to show his permanent support" of Obama by getting a tattoo. Arenas had the "words 'Change We Believe In' tattooed onto the fingers of his left hand in cursive writing," and had "44" tattooed on his pinky finger. Arenas also said that he "hired an artist last week to paint a mural with Obama's family on one side and Arenas's fiancee and children on another side of a wall in Arenas's house" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 11/9). Pistons F Rasheed Wallace last week "gave out T-shirts with an Obama-looking cartoon character on the front, dunking over" McCain. Wallace also "wore a T-shirt which had Obama in boxing gloves standing over McCain and read 'Down goes McCain'" (MLIVE.com, 11/7). Steelers WR Hines Ward Friday wore a T-shirt that read "Barack for Hope." Ward, who was born in Korea to a Korean mother and an African-American father, said, "Look at my career, or Tiger Woods and our new president. It makes you see that if they can do it, why can't I do it?" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 11/8).

MAKING A STATEMENT: Broncos WR Brandon Marshall last Thursday, after scoring a touchdown in a game against the Browns, was thwarted in his attempt to put on a half-white, half-black glove in a tribute to Obama's victory, and in L.A., Bill Plaschke wrote the glove would have "sparked a controversy whose flames would have engulfed the NFL down to its buttoned-up core." But it also would have "reflected America's fire within." Plaschke wrote the "practical part of me was relieved" when Broncos WR Brandon Stokley stopped the celebration, but the "patriotic part of me wishes he would have done it anyway." If there was "no Jackie Robinson, there would be no Barack Obama, and can it really hurt for today's sports stars to remind us of this?" (L.A. TIMES, 11/8). Plaschke also said Marshall’s attempted tribute “was the right thing at the right time.” Plaschke: “Great statements of moral character aren’t about convenience. They’re about conscious. … Without sports there would be no Barack Obama.” However, former Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti said, “You have to be loyal to your organization … and pick a better time and a place. I love to see athletes involved politically … but that was not the place to do it” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 11/7). 

VOICING SUPPORT: In Baltimore, David Steele wrote during this election a "nation whose reaction to athletes making political and social statements historically has been 'shut up and play' couldn't get enough from a group disproportionately populated by the race shared by the president-elect." Steele: "You can't minimize what sports and, more importantly, our athletic forbears, did to change minds and hearts over the years. But let's not overinflate their meaning. Deluding ourselves with nostalgia does a disservice to us, to sports and to Obama's accomplishment" (Baltimore SUN, 11/9). NFL Giants GM Jerry Reese, the first African-American GM to win a Super Bowl, said of Obama's victory, "It just means that we've come a long way in the United States" (N.Y. POST, 11/9).

Jeff Burton Has Mixed Reaction To Obama
IN THE GARAGE: In K.C., Jim Pedley wrote for NASCAR, Obama's victory "sent ripples through the garages," and driver Kyle Petty indicated that the event "created a large amount of uncertainty in the sport." Petty: "Ninety-nine percent of the people in this garage are Republicans. They were convinced that when they woke up on Wednesday morning, that if Obama was president, the world would start spinning the other way. With the economic and political uncertainty, they don’t know what to do. That does affect this sport.” But driver Jeff Burton said that he was "intrigued by the prospect of Obama's presidency." Burton: "There are a lot of good things that I see there, and there are a lot of things that concern me. ... But I think for our country, and even for the world, it’s a remarkable thing for a young guy like that with little experience to be elected president -- and of course the first African-American to be elected president. That’s some special stuff. That’s real special stuff" (K.C. STAR, 11/8).

RAISING AWARENESS: Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin dropped the puck before two NHL games this season, and in N.Y., Elliot Olshansky wrote as hockey "looks to reassert itself in the national sports landscape," it is "hard not to like the national media attention that comes with being part of a hotly contested presidential campaign." USA Hockey Media Dir Dave Fischer: "Because of Sarah Palin's connection to hockey, our sport has certainly gained coverage it would not have otherwise received." Olshansky noted given Palin's "values-based conservatism resonates loudest in many of the areas where hockey has traditionally struggled to gain traction, her ability to bring national news media attention to hockey during her run on the GOP ticket was a plus for the sport." Univ. of Alabama-Huntsville men's hockey head coach Danton Cole: "I think where we're at as a sport, any time we can get any mention in things nationally, I think it's a positive" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/8).

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