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More NBA Players Take Sides in Presidential Race
In the early 1990s, Michael Jordan famously refused to publicly support Harvey Gantt, a black Democrat running against Republican Jesse Helms in a North Carolina U.S. Senate race, saying, "Republicans buy sneakers, too." Jordan eventually donated money to Gantt, and also contributed to the presidential campaigns of Bill Bradley in 2000 and Obama.
Steve Nash sparked a minor controversy when he showed up at the 2003 All-Star Game in Atlanta wearing a T-shirt that read, "No War. Shoot for Peace." Orlando Magic center Adonal Foyle, another critic of the Iraq war, said athletes shouldn't be afraid to share their political views.
"There is some risk, there is no doubt about that, but I think that's part of the responsibility," said Foyle, 33, who in 2001 founded Democracy Matters, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that works on campaign finance reform. "Saying what you think is going to come with a certain amount of people being mad at you, but so what? People are mad at you when you beat them at a basketball game anyway. They boo you anyway. Really, what has changed? I think it all depends on how you do it."
Foyle, a native of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean, recently became a U.S. citizen and plans to vote for Obama. "This is truly a remarkable time to be involved in politics. I feel absolutely honored and special to be voting at this particular juncture," Foyle said.
The political climate has led to debates in locker rooms around the league. "Those are the hot topics because that's where all the news is from," Hawes, who is white, said, adding that he takes some heat from teammates for his views. "You see the 'Saturday Night Live' sketches. It's not really just politics right now. It's become intertwined with pop culture as a whole."
However, some players still refuse to get excited about the election. "People get sour-faced when you talk about politics and voting," said Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas, adding that he doesn't plan to vote.
Arenas, who is slated to earn $14.5 million this season after signing a six-year, $111 million contract this past summer to remain with the Wizards, said he is fearful that both candidates will raise his taxes.
"The first Bush said he wasn't going to tax nobody," Arenas said. "It doesn't really matter who the president is. They say whatever they need to say to get in office."