SBD/Issue 84/Sports & Society

Obama Inauguration Part I: How Obama Can Change Sports

Many See Benefits From 
Obama's Love Of Sports
President Barack Obama "has the potential to change the way we view sports," according to Jerry Brewer of the SEATTLE TIMES. For at least the next four years, the "most famous black public figure will be a man who loves to play basketball but was smart enough to become a civil rights attorney before attacking politics" (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/20). In Ft. Worth, Gil LeBreton writes a President who is a "sports fan is good for America." There is "something very statesmanlike about a commander in chief who can quote Thomas Jefferson and Ozzie Guillen" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 1/20).

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: ESPN.com's Tom Farrey, in an open letter to Obama on athletic activity amongst children in the U.S., wrote, "Offer incentives for schools to create more teams." Obama also should "rewrite the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act so that Job 1 for the USOC is tending to the base of the participation pyramid," and enlist new USOC and Electronic Arts Chair Larry Probst to "share what he knows about creating games that engage today's children." Farrey added, "Imagine a Chicago Olympics in 2016 -- the first truly 'Sport for All' Olympics. ... An Olympics with a legacy of facilities that will benefit regular athletes, not just elites. An Olympics measured by growth in the number of Chicago kids who play sports into their teenage years and beyond" (ESPN.com, 1/19). Meanwhile, cyclist Lance Armstrong said that he hoped Obama would be "receptive to his anticancer message and a champion of health-care reform." Armstrong: "I'm optimistic in this new administration. ... I think the best thing he can do is come in and reform our health-care system. And do I think he'll increase the funding? Yes, absolutely" (MIAMI HERALD, 1/19).

Bob Johnson Asserts Obama Must Be Ready
To Be A Decisive Leader When Needed
OFFERING SOME SUGGESTIONS: Bobcats Owner Bob Johnson, as part of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER's "Inauguration 2009" special feature, recommended Obama "restore confidence in the American economy by convincing the American people ... that we must work and sacrifice together for the public good." Johnson suggests Obama "seek a consensus on major issues but be prepared to be a decisive leader when consensus cannot be attained." Johnson added, "When you finish that, suit up with the Bobcats as a shooting guard -- I'll talk to Michael (Jordan) and Larry (Brown)" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/18). Marlins President David Samson: "As an organization, we're excited about the inauguration and what it can represent. ... From a team perspective, this is an important time for us. We're in the entertainment business. We are out there trying to get people to spend their disposable income. We recognize in these recessionary times, disposable income decreases." Samson added, "In my lifetime, there has never been a greater set of expectations on an incoming president than what exists right now" (MLB.com, 1/19). In Orlando, David Whitley suggests some sports changes for Obama to consider (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 1/20).

Hank Aaron Sees Obama's Presidency As A 
Representaion Of Himself, His Career
PAVING THE WAY: In Oakland, Monte Poole writes Obama's inauguration is as "much the realization of Jackie Robinson's vision as the epitome of Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream," and is "much less about Jesse Jackson than Tiger Woods." As athletes have "been among our most visible soldiers during the struggle for equality, Obama could not have reached such heights without them." Obama's election is a "vivid illustration of the impact of sports in our society" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 1/20). In West Palm Beach, Joe Capozzi writes Obama's "path to the White House as the nation's first African-American president was cleared in part by athletes whose courage and talent helped the country move through the slow and painful process of desegregation." Baseball HOFer Hank Aaron said of Obama's inauguration, "I am just overwhelmed. Every time I see him on television I just smile because he represents me. No matter how I look at it, he's me" (PALM BEACH POST, 1/20). In Houston, Jerome Solomon writes, "In a way, we have reached this day, today, thanks to a host of meaningful sports days in American history." Solomon: "Would we be where we are as a nation -- seeing the inauguration of the first black man to be elected president -- were it not for the achievements of Jack Johnson, Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe and dozens of others who found a way to overcome? Not likely" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/20). MLB.com's Mike Bauman wrote there may not be a "direct, unbroken line between Jackie Robinson and Barack Obama, but there definitely is a connection." Robinson "paved the way for generations of African-American ballplayers to come, but his influence went well beyond even that accomplishment" (MLB.com, 1/19).  TNT’s Kenny Smith said Obama is “a product of what the American dream is about” (“NBA Tip-Off,” TNT, 1/19).

NOT FAR ENOUGH: In Columbus, Bob Hunter writes while athletes such as Jesse Owens would be "thrilled by the change today's ceremony represents," there unfortunately are "signs that even in the sports world -- often the first place civil rights inroads were made -- change hasn't come far enough." Hunter: "How else to explain only eight black coaches out of 119 NCAA" Division I-A college football jobs? (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 1/20).

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