GOP Drafting Former NFL players?August 16, 2009
“The values that Republicans espouse in terms of capitalism, free enterprise, responsibility, working hard, sacrifice and commitment — that message probably resonates with the majority of athletes a lot more”
There is something about the Republican Party that has attracted NFL players for over 50 years. With Richard Nixon drafting plays for the Washington Redskins, coached by George Allen who’s son, also George later became Republican Governor of Virginia, and with former lineman Gerald Ford becoming president, Football and the GOP go hand in hand.
During the Republican wave in 1994, Seahawks Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Steve Largent was swept into Congress, as was former University of Oklahoma quarterback J.C. Watts. Both men were elected in Oklahoma, where they grew up and played in college.
It may not be just the tennants of the Republican Party that attract former NFL players
Others say the link has more to do with regional quirks than any natural connection between Xs and Os and the GOP. “There’s an impulse to draw a direct line between the discipline and self reliance required to succeed in football and laissez faire, individualistic conservative philosophies,” said Chris Brown, editor of the Smart Football website. “But I don’t think there’s enough evidence for that, particularly since the ex-football players in Congress are more social conservative than libertarian.”
Instead, said Brown, “I think the basic answer is regional. Many of these guys are Southerners … which happens to be both the part of their country where the politics are generally more socially conservative, and their football celebrity is the most help in getting elected.”
It seems like the GOP is going to use NFL players to help win back a majority. Though both ultimately decided to sit out, Lou Holtz and Peter Boulware recruited to run, both in Florida. In 2006 Lynn Swann and Russ Francis lost their attempts to win positions in Pennsylvania and Hawaii. An of course in 1996, former AFC MVP Jack Kemp was the Republican Vice Presidential candidate.
“Pro football,” Kemp said when he first ran for Congress, “gave me a good sense of perspective to enter politics: I’d already been booed, cheered, cut, sold, traded and hung in effigy.”
I wish Peter Boulware would decide to run, as well as many other former NFL players. Some of the players may not have political experience but considering Kemp’s quote from above many players would be able to handle the political life style. And of course I think many of them have the name recognition, intelligence and skills that it would take to win a congressional or even state wide election. Strategically it’s a good move as well. The GOP has struggled mightily in the last two cycles and could use a jolt and focusing on recruiting people that could win a specific district is a good start. Getting NFL players to run in their home town, with good values for the district and name recognition would help the GOP revival.
On a related note, I think that there is a huge base of GOP support in NASCAR and professional wrestling that hasn’t been tapped in terms of candidate recruitment.