I've theorized for many years that Football players and fans represent the more conservative elements in American society: If you want to understand red America go to a College Football game on Saturday or if you want to understand purple America go to an NFL game. This is in contrast to College Basketball and the NBA where the players and fans tend to lean to the left with some very notable exceptions (Bob Knight anyone?).
This year as with almost every Presidential or Congressional cycles current and former NFL Quarterbacks are making their voice known in the political process. Almost in unison these stars are stumping for John McCain and local Republican candidates. Let's start with John Elway a longtime Republican whose presence on the campaign trail has helped John McCain close the gap in Colorado. Brady Quinn has been dispatched in Ohio, and Indiana states where he has played NFL and College football. Troy Aikman is hitting the trail for McCain. In the recent past Jim Kelly, Peyton Manning, Terry Bradshaw, Mark Brunnel, Matt Hasslebeck, Jim Harbaugh, Chris Weinke and of course the former Congressmen Jack Kemp and JC Watts have all openly stumped for GOP candidates.
The sheer number of former QBs and other former football stars that have run for office like Steve Largent, Peter Boulware and others has to be attributed to a combination of financial considerations as to the violent ruggedness of Football as opposed to the soulful individualism of Basketball. For years Basketball players have tended to lean left. Bill Bradley and Tom McMillen went to Congress as liberal Democrats, and currently Kevin Johnson is running for Mayor of Sacramento on a very liberal platform. National Championship coaches Bill Self and Rick Pitino have stumped for Democrats previously in the red states they coach in and the great Dean Smith was perhaps the most liberal minded and politically charged Basketball coach of all. Other former NBA players like the late Dave DeBusschere, Walt Frazier, Julius Erving, Phil Jackson, Ernie Grunfeld and even Michael Jordan, have stumped for Democrats. This year Alonzo Mourning, and LeBron James lead the legion of NBA players for Democrats.
The Football/Basketball divide can even be found among fans from my experiences. While crossover fans come from both political parties and all ideological stripes, fans who openly prefer one sport to the other tend to fall into the Conservative category if Football fans or the Liberal category if Basketball fans.
The Democrats have had successes wooing a single former QB to its ranks. Heath Shuler, the runner up for the 1993 Heisman Trophy and classic NFL failure was elected to Congress as a Democrat in 2006. Shuler is very conservative on social issues in the QB/Football mold even preferring not to campaign on Sundays and taking the typical conservative line on abortion, guns and gay rights. However, Shuler is an economic populist putting his view on financial issues and Government spending at direct odds with his Quarterback club brethren, and making him fit comfortably on the Democratic left on economics. Perhaps his fellow QBs even mutter the terms "socialist" and "tax ans spend liberal" to discuss Shuler who has clearly deviated from the standard NFL QB position.
Can McCain ride the popularity of NFL QBs and Football fans in general to an Election 2008 victory? Likely not, but it's interesting to note for all the Hollywood bashing Republicans do, that they have their own arsenal of celebrities lining up to play the attack dog role for Conservative ideals.
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- I am the host of the Major League Soccer Talk and EPL Talk Podcasts and am frequent guest on other (world) football shows. I am also the publisher of various other websites including this one. I work in public/government relations in addition to my soccer work and have a keen interest in history, politics, aviation, travel,and the world around us.