U.S. presidents have historically taken a healthy interest in sports and recreation. Through time, their play, their fandom, or their encouragement have shaped their constituents outlook on the role of sport in society.
The example of Teddy Roosevelt inspired citizens to stay physically fit, and to explore the nation's new national parks. Franklin Roosevelt felt it important that major league baseball continue as a source of entertainment during World War II. He also used Joe Louis' muscles as a metaphor for defeating Germany.
Harry Truman's integration of the armed forces was the impetus for baseball commissioner Happy Chandler to approve of the Brooklyn Dodgers signing of Army veteran Jackie Robinson to break the game's color barrier.
President Eisenhower was an avid golfer, which helped grow interest in the game. His successor, John F. Kennedy, was often photographed either sailing or playing touch football with his large family.
Politically, JFK established the President's Council of Physical Fitness, which instituted exercise programs in the public schools. Lyndon Johnson approved the merger of the American and National Football Leagues. And President Bush is remembered for throwing out the first pitch at an emotional World Series game after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
President Obama enjoys participating in basketball and golf, and famously fills out an NCAA Men's Basketball championship bracket on national TV.
Photo: The Shadow League
On November 8th, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. Trump, who played baseball and basketball in military school, owned the New Jersey Generals of the USFL, and whose properties have hosted professional golf tournaments, has had as direct a relationship to sport as perhaps any president since former Michigan All-American football center Gerald Ford.
As he plans his transition and administration, like every sector of society, the athletic world considers how a Trump administration could alter its landscape. On issues such as immigrant players, visiting national teams, team and individual protests, White House team visits, and sexual assault and rape, how will the policies, cabinet, coverage, and reaction to the new president color one of the world's favorite diversions?
Where will politics and sport blur, or collide? It didn't take long after Election Day for clues to emerge.
Trump had not occupied his position for 24 hours before Pistons Coach Stan Van Gundy was the first nationally prominent figure to speak out against the president-elect. “I don't think anybody can deny this guy is openly and brazenly racist and misogynistic,” Van Gundy said. “We have just thrown a good part of our population under the bus, and I have problems with thinking this is where we are as a country.”
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