Donald Trump will continue long association of sports and the White House – Chicago Tribune
In goes one sports fan and golfer, out goes another.
Sports is also usually part of those in the job, part of what made them and emblematic of who they are.
George Washington’s physical strength was well-known, as was his skill as a horseman. Abraham Lincoln was said to be quite a wrestler before he became president.
Theodore Roosevelt considered boxing an especially efficient way to exercise, inviting sparring partners to the White House until 1908, when a blow left him blind in one eye. Bill Clinton often is said to have pulled rank to improve his golf scores with what became known as “billigans.”
As avid a golfer as Obama is, as dedicated a sports fan as he has shown himself to be, Trump has his own bona fides. The man has 17 golf courses with his name on them, after all, and once owned a pro football team.
Trump may or may not continue Obama’s tradition of filling out NCAA men’s and women’s basketball brackets on ESPN. He might not be as eager to play hoops.
But Trump seems to cherish his associations with sports stars.
“First I have to say he has really cool stuff in his office,” former rival Carly Fiorina told the waiting reporters after her sitdown with the president-elect at Trump Tower. “All these athletes have given him this incredible memorabilia. I was particularly taken by Shaq O’Neal‘s shoe, which is huge. I guess it takes a champion to know a champion.”
Since the election, Trump has attended the Army-Navy football game, spoken with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach in support of Los Angeles’ bid to host the 2024 Games and played a round of golf with Tiger Woods.
Michael Jordan once famously dissed President Obama as a “hack” golfer.
“I never said he wasn’t a great politician,” Jordan said. “I just said he was a (bleep) golfer.”
Obama responded: “There is no doubt that Michael is a better golfer than I am. Of course if I was playing twice a day for the last 15 years, then that might not be the case.”
Meanwhile, new PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan told reporters last weekend that Trump is “probably the best golfer to ever sit in office, and certainly the most golf knowledgeable,” according to Golf Digest.
Trump owned the New Jersey Generals of the USFL, pushing that league to go head to head in challenging the NFL, a battle that resulted in a pyrrhic court victory in 1986 and the end of the league. He has sought out other sports entrepreneurs for his administration.
Among his picks are Cubs board member Todd Ricketts to be deputy commerce secretary and WWE co-founder Linda McMahon to head the Small Business Administration.
Vincent Viola, owner of the NHL‘s Florida Panthers, is Trump’s choice to be Secretary of the Army. Bill Hagerty, who has been leading the effort in Nashville to land a Major League Soccer franchise, is Trump’s pick to serve as ambassador to Japan.
Whether having a former sports (and casino) owner has any more effect than that is unclear. Some in the sports and gaming industries believe Trump may be open to re-examining at least some restrictions on sports wagering.
The first fans
Welcoming the Cubs to the White House is likely the last sports-related activity the public will see during Obama’s presidency, though there may be a pickup basketball game or two behind the scenes in his remaining days in office.
Baseball teams have been visiting the White House as far back as Andrew Johnson’s presidency, according to John Sayle Watterson’s book, “The Games Presidents Play: Sports and the Presidency.”
Benjamin Harrison was the first sitting president to attend a ballgame. His predecessor in the White House, Grover Cleveland, turned down a chance to see the Chicago White Stockings play as unthinkable, according to Watterson.
“What do you imagine the American public would think of me if I wasted my time going to the ballgame?” Cleveland said.
Almost 50 years later, sensing it would help his image in his own run for the presidency, Calvin Coolidge made a point to attend three World Series games in 1924.
It was Coolidge’s wife, Grace, far more athletic and into sports than he was, who saved Silent Cal from being exposed as a poser. Coolidge was getting up to leave after nine innings of one despite the game being tied.