Donald Trump denied Tuesday, via Twitter, that Mike Tyson had been invited to speak at the Republican convention, at which the real estate mogul is expected to formally receive his party’s nomination for the presidency. “I’m sure he would do a good job if he was,” Trump added.
Trump’s comments were an apparent reaction to a Bloomberg Politics story, published earlier on Tuesday, that Tyson was among several sports figures who had been asked to “appear” at the convention. That leaves open the possibility that the ex-boxer has, in fact, been invited to the event but won’t address attendees from the stage.
In March, Tyson said “it’s a pretty awesome thing” that Trump is “doing so well.” Trump had been an informal adviser to Tyson in the late 1980s, staging many of the then-heavyweight champion’s fights at his Atlantic City casinos. When Tyson was convicted of raping a beauty-pageant winner in 1992, Trump suggested that, instead of serving time in jail, the boxer could have a title fight with Evander Holyfield and donate a share of the proceeds to his victim.
“We’re the same guy,” Tyson said of Trump to the Daily Beast in January. “A thrust for power, a drive for power. Whatever field we’re in, we need power in that field. That’s just who we are. Balls of energy. We’re not even who we think we are. We’re fire. We’re made of this crap — water, motion, dirt, diamonds, emeralds. We’re made out of that stuff, can you believe it?”
In April, Trump said of Tyson’s endorsement at a rally in Indianapolis, “I love it, he sent out a tweet. Mike. Iron Mike. You know, all the tough guys endorse me. I like that, okay?”
That drew local criticism from some who recalled that the rape for which Tyson went to jail occurred in an Indianapolis hotel room. Trump’s longstanding support for Tyson was also cited in an ad produced by a political action committee that backed then-candidate Ted Cruz in Indiana, as well as by Cruz’s running mate, Carly Fiorina.
Citing “people familiar with the planning” of the event, Bloomberg reported that, in addition to Tyson, Trump’s staff has also asked Mike Ditka, Bobby Knight and NASCAR CEO Brian France to appear at the convention, to be held at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena July 18-21. Knight and France have both appeared with Trump at campaign stops, while Ditka has expressed his support for the candidate.
Trump has credited Knight with not only helping him win the Indiana primary, but with encouraging him to run for president in the first place. In turn, the legendary former Hoosiers basketball coach told a crowd in Indiana that Trump was “the most prepared man in history to step in as president of the United States.”
In March, Ditka told a New York radio show, “If I were to vote tomorrow, I’d probably vote for Trump.” The former Bears head coach, who had previously expressed regret for not running against Barack Obama in the Illinois 2004 Senate race, added that “Obama’s the worst president we’ve ever had.”
France went onstage at a February Trump rally in Valdosta, Ga., along with NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott and current drivers Ryan Newman, Chase Elliott (Bill’s son) and David Ragan. “You know about his winning in business, and success,” France said of Trump. “I’m here to tell you, he wins with his family. … Any of his children, you’d be proud to have them as part of your family.”
Earlier in June, Trump had told supporters at a rally in Richmond (via the New York Times) that, rather than have the usual assortment of politicians address the upcoming convention, he wanted to have a “winner’s evening,” featuring sports stars. “We’re going to do it a little different, if it’s okay,” Trump said. “I’m thinking about getting some of the great sports people who like me a lot.”
At that rally, Trump cited the support of Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and UFC president Dana White, in addition to that of Knight and France. Bloomberg reported that Trump’s staff is reaching out to more athletes, so the list of those set to appear at the convention could get longer.