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Monday, March 24, 2008

Love It Or Hate It - Super Tuesday Style

http://theloveofsports.com/index.php/site/comments/love_it_or_hate_it3/

By Sarah Spain
Love of Sports Correspondent

Early in January, Dan Steinberg of DC Sports Bog posted a comprehensive list of famous athletes who have openly supported and donated to the campaigns of this year's presidential hopefuls.

A quick breakdown of the top candidates shows Barack Obama leading in All-Star votes, getting contributions from the likes of Grant Hill, Stephon Marbury, Roy Williams, Desmond Howard and Derrek Lee.

Hillary Clinton's supporters tend to be behind a desk, rather than behind the plate. She boasts fans like David Stern, Eagles team president Joe Banner, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and Red Sox president Larry Lucchino.

Surprisingly, "Mitt" Romney didn't reel in too many baseballers! (C'mon, who doesn't love puns?) However, he did grab a couple NFL guys like Todd Heap, Ryan Denney and Eagles coach Andy Reid.

John McCain's list is short, but it's about quality, not quantity. He's got backers like ESPN president George W. Bodenheimer, Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones and Leonsis again, (guess he's hedging his bets).

In honor of Fat/Super Tuesday — a big night for both bead-throwers and poll-goers alike — I ask the question: should professional athletes voice their political opinions publicly?

With all the corruption and greed running rampant in professional sports, it's not surprising to find athletes mingling with politicians. Both groups of people are in positions of great power, celebrity and influence. Both athletes and politicians succeed because of a carefully created and balanced support system of cronies who will do or say anything to back their friend/meal-ticket.

While no one can deny athletes their right to vote or to support their chosen candidates, many wonder whether Americans should be influenced by the opinions of people who earn a living on the playing field.

Will Cubs fans who idolize Derrek Lee vote Obama without knowing his stance on the war? Should fans of David Stern's handling of "ref-gate" side with Clinton despite not understanding her health care proposal? Would Fred Thompson's campaign still be afloat had more NFL supporters known about his ties to Peyton Manning?

Let's be honest, a lot of athletes never make it through college. Heck, some barely graduate high school. While life lessons can be just as important, if not more important, than what is to be learned in a classroom, there's still some merit in questioning a ballplayer's knowledge of the ins-and-outs of politics.

Americans who blindly copy the voting moves of their favorite QB as closely as his moves on the field are doing the country and themselves a disservice. They're the reason many people hate when politicians flaunt their celebrity endorsers.

On the other hand, something must be done about the large number of Americans who sit back and watch as the rest of the country decides their fate. Many people adopt an apathetic view of the election because they're just not that interested in politics. Then, one day, their childhood hero pops up on the news at a political rally and suddenly they want to know why this millionaire superstar cares enough to show his support.

If Alonzo Mourning gets one misogynistic jerk to take another look at the benefits of a female president, that's fantastic. If pseudo-athlete Chuck Norris makes a 22-year-old college kid jump on his computer to learn about Mike Huckabee, that's awesome too.

One can only hope a sports fan's interest in a candidate eventually becomes about the issues and not his or her allegiance to a team or player. If athletes, celebrities and musicians can help more Americans of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds get to the polls and vote, then I encourage them to continue voicing their opinions. That's why I'm lovin' athletes who voice their political opinion.

Which candidate's backers would win on the field, though? Well, that's a whole 'nother story …

How about you? Political endorsements by your favorite sports figures. Do you "Love It or Hate It?"

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