SBD/Issue 84/Sports & Society

Obama Inauguration Part II: Athletes Speak Out In Support

Not since the "days of Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Bill Walton has there been a time where athletes have become more conscious of what is going on around them," according to Branson Wright of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Often times, athletes have been "so far removed from the realities of social issues and even history, that getting some athletes to share their opinions about some of these issues can be difficult." Athletes have "become aware that despite all of their success and riches, they can have a positive impact on their communities and the world outside of their own field" (, 1/19).

The Normally Apolitical Tiger Woods Speaks
At Obama Inauguration Celebration In DC
STARS COME OUT: In Portland, John Canzano wrote golfer Tiger Woods, who Sunday spoke at President Obama's inauguration celebration in DC, and Cavaliers F LeBron James historically have "played it safe and chose being marketable over being socially responsible." But in recent weeks, both have spoke out in support of Obama, and "never mind whether you agree with them," it is "refreshing to learn they have thoughts and concerns outside sports." This week becomes "significant because you have a generation of young athletes watching Woods and James and believing, 'That's the way to do it.'" Woods and James have "finally stopped serving milquetoast at the training table, and in its place are men demonstrating genuine thought and authentic leadership" (, 1/19).

LOOKING FOR MORE:'s Mike Freeman wrote "making money and playing golf come with ease for Woods," but "standing for something other than lucrative endorsements and Nike nine irons has always been the tricky part." Woods would "rather be atomized than take a position," and he is "usually so relentlessly apolitical and position-phobic, he borders on cowardly." Woods' comments on Sunday "were fine," but he "still said little of substance." Freeman: "I'd have more respect for Woods if he stuck to his noncommittal persona and turned down the offer" (, 1/19). CBSSPORTS’ Steve Elling wrote, “It was hardly the cultural or political coming-out party for Woods that some had envisioned” (, 1/19).

Ray Allen (l) Attending Inauguration, While Doc
Rivers (r) Arranging For Celtics To Watch On TV
LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD:'s Ken Berger wrote when it "comes to NBA players and political activism," the "modern superstars of the sport have followed the Jordan model too closely, keeping their opinions to themselves and not wanting to get involved." But with Obama, "something has changed," and now "politics and race are going to be discussed quite a bit in NBA locker rooms during the next few days -- and years" (, 1/17). Celtics G Ray Allen, who attended today's celebration in DC, said "I think this is bigger than anything any of us have ever seen. We had a lot of debate about just what is going on in the world and how we have an impact and what we can do, and what the presidential election means to all of us” (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/20). Celtics coach Doc Rivers altered the team's schedule so that the players could watch the inauguration on TV, and said, "It's the first time since I've been in sports -- not only as a coach, as a player -- that everybody has expressed an interest in wanting to see this" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/19). 

SPORTS FIGURES SPEAK OUT: NASCAR driver Bill Lester said, “I think what’s going on is terrific for this country, and I think that it’s a step in the right direction in terms of everybody being equal.” NHL Diversity Program Dir of Youth Development Willie O'Ree, who became the NHL's first black player in '58, added, “I think it’s a great thing for the country, the U.S. and the world” (, 1/19). Baseball HOFer Dave Winfield, who planned to attend today's events, said of Obama, “He’s such a fresh leader, and you get the feeling that it’s time for something new” (, 1/19). Mets LF Marlon Anderson, who also was slated to attend the inauguration, said, "It's the biggest event in my life. ... I had to be there to see history" (, 1/19). WTAers Serena and Venus Williams both said that they are “excited and pleased by the prospect of having a black president.” Serena Williams: “This is an amazing moment for American history.” Venus Williams: “I think it’s exciting that in America we can have a (black) president or that we can have diversity” (REUTERS, 1/20). 

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin said, “You see just how much this country has changed. Having an African American as our President. I don't think many people would have dreamed of that happening." Steelers coach Mike Tomlin added, “Having Barack Obama as president of the United States to me means hope. Hope for a bright future not only for us as adults but our children.” Eagles S Brian Dawkins said Obama's victory “has given many individuals a lot broader or lot stronger realization their goals can be reached. Not just African Americans. I'm talking about across the board." Ravens LB Ray Lewis: “Barack Obama was an example of what a lot of other men need to do of our stature. Focus, determination, commitment. Go do whatever you set out to do” (“NFL Total Access, NFL Network, 1/20). Pro Football HOFer Jim Brown said, “I know history will put this in the context of race and I know most people are elated because race is a major factor … but the exception is this is a great man. Not a black man, this a great man” (“Fox & Friends,” Fox News, 1/20).

Obama Supporter Mutombo
Attended Tuesday's Inauguration
ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT: Rockets C Dikembe Mutombo said that he would attend today's inauguration. Mutombo, who campaigned for Obama, also had breakfast with Obama before he "announced his bid for the White House" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/17). Former NBAer Alonzo Mourning sponsored a bus trip for "about 50 children and chaperones from his Overtown Youth Center" in DC to "allow the children to share in the experience of Obama's inauguration." Mourning and his wife, Tracy, since '07 pledged $23,000 each to Obama's campaign, and also hosted a fundraiser for Obama in August '07 (MIAMI HERALD, 1/18). ESPN NBA studio analyst Jalen Rose will emcee the basketball segment of The American Music Inaugural Ball (AMIB), entitled "Rock The Ball for Barack." The event at the Wardman Park Marriott in DC will include a taped message featuring Cavaliers F LeBron James, Celtics F Kevin Garnett, Lakers G Kobe Bryant, Heat G Dwyane Wade and Pistons G Allen Iverson, among others (AMIB).

TAKING THE HILL: The following are just a few of the sports industry notables expected to attend today's inauguration: Nationals Owner Mark Lerner,  Pro Football HOFer Ronnie Lott and former NFLers Dwight Clark and Roger Craig, Basketball HOFers Bill Russell and Julius Erving, Eagles QB Donovan McNabb, Reds manager Dusty Baker, Redskins DE Phillip Daniels, boxing promoter Don King, Basketball HOFer Magic Johnson and Muhammad Ali.

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