“We need to have the Affordable Care Act, whether in its current structure or it’s been changed or corrected or fixed or being added on to,” Rivera said. “We need to have something for the folks of the United States of America. For us not to have affordable, quality health care, and be the richest nation in the world, that’s kind of disappointing.”
President Trump has often campaigned against Obamacare, a nickname for the ACA. He told voters four years ago he planned to “repeal and replace” the landmark legislation, but despite his administration’s continued attacks, most of the policy remains in place. In the run-up to this election, Trump has continued to say he will replace the ACA with a conservative option, though he hasn’t offered a plan, and Democratic candidate Joe Biden has pledged to expand it.
Rivera spoke at length Monday about the importance of voting in Tuesday’s election, as well as democracy writ large. He said it has been “really cool” to hear players discuss current affairs, and he noted that the spectrum of political ideologies in the locker room was “huge.” The enthusiasm for engagement was echoed in a Monday blog post by team president Jason Wright, who wrote the team believed in “big, meaningful and comprehensive community activities versus a collection of small one-off ventures.”
“For example, we will continue to have a robust set of activities around social justice because the players on our team and our employees care about those issues,” he added. “Voting is one component, but there is much more we can and will do.”
Rivera reiterated Monday the importance of participation in democracy, saying that the thing that bothers him most is when people don’t vote. In past years, Rivera has gotten up early to be one of the first people at the polls. He loves the “I voted” stickers. This year, he and his wife, Stephanie, and daughter, Courtney, filled out their ballots and put them in the mailbox. He said he plans to turn the television on around 5 p.m. Tuesday and flip between local and national stations to monitor the returns.
“People always ask me, ‘Who did you vote for?’ ” the coach said. “I always tell them, ‘I voted American.’ I believe I voted for who I believe is going to be the best person for us.”
After his cancer diagnosis this summer, Rivera has become an advocate for improved health care. The coach has grown more outspoken over the past three months, and he has sometimes gone as far as to call for universal health care. His message Monday was more tempered, framed around the ACA, but the root of his activism remains personal. Rivera, 58, is now one year older than his brother Mickey was when he died of pancreatic cancer in 2015.
This season, the coach has been limited at times by chemotherapy and other treatment. He has thought about others in the same fight during his time in the hospital, those who might not have a five-year contract worth millions.
“After seeing what I went through, and knowing what the cost has to be, you worry about the folks that can’t afford what I had,” he said. “I almost don’t want to say it’s unfair, but it is. These folks deserve every opportunity [to receive quality health care]. It just kind of struck a chord with me.”
Rivera mentioned Monday an upcoming fundraiser for Inova Health System, the Northern Virginia-based network of hospitals where he has received treatment. He emphasized that he would like to stay in the fight for health care whether directly or indirectly.
“Those are the kinds of things that, if that’s all I can do, I’m going to do it,” he said.