April 25th, 2008
10:00 AM ET
6 years ago

Indiana and North Carolina: Where basketball and politics meet

Former UNC center Eric Montross was a big backer of John Edwards' White House bid.
Former UNC center Eric Montross was a big backer of John Edwards' White House bid.

(CNN) - The pageantry, the emotion, the packed gymnasiums - basketball fanatics in Indiana and North Carolina have seen it all before.

Democrats in both primary states are beaming about their newfound roles in this extended nomination contest, but long after the bumper stickers and campaign buttons are packed away, and when the awkward sports metaphors are nothing but distant memories, Hoosiers and Tar Heels will always have that familiar sound of sneaker-on-hardwood to fall back on.

Still, with politics and hoops now crossing paths, a handful of basketball icons have become caught in the moment, stepping off the court to endorse presidential candidates this cycle.

Here's a quick look at which basketball celebrities from North Carolina and Indiana have weighed in on the 2008 race, according to Federal Election Commission data and news reports.

NORTH CAROLINA

Where else to start but with University of North Carolina legend Michael Jordan? The careful capitalist once sought to avoid politics, declaring in 1990 that "Republicans buy sneakers, too." But the greatest player of all time apparently leans Democratic - he has contributed $2,100 to another gym rat, Barack Obama.

Jordan's college coach, the vaunted Dean Smith, kept his money close to Chapel Hill this primary season, maxing out his contributions to former North Carolina senator John Edwards. Former UNC center Eric Montross (remember him?) also gave $4,600 to Edwards.

Edwards, a UNC law school alumnus and Tar Heel fan, has been spotted at a few North Carolina basketball games since leaving the race.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, a longtime Republican, has yet to officially weigh in on the race, but he has been spotted with John McCain. In 2006, Coach K - who is also the head coach of the men's U.S. national team - invited the Arizona senator to speak to the basketball squad about his experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Former Duke stars Shane Battier and Grant Hill are both Obama backers - each has maxed out their primary donations to the Illinois senator.

No high-profile alumni from the Tobacco Road powerhouses of Wake Forest and North Carolina State appear to have contributed campaign cash to a presidential candidate this cycle.

As for the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats, the team's owner is BET mogul Bob Johnson, a high-profile Hillary Clinton backer.

INDIANA

Indiana University legend Calbert Cheaney, a native of Evansville, has endorsed Obama and is campaigning for him in the state. His legendary coach at Indiana, Bobby Knight, hasn't weighed in during the current cycle, but he was a George W. Bush donor in 2004.

NBA star Greg Oden, who played high school ball in Indianapolis and was named Indiana's Mr. Basketball in 2006, endorsed Obama earlier this year on his blog, saying, "He is a very nice man and I am a big fan."

Notre Dame alum and current Chicago Bulls general manager John Paxson gave $500 to Edwards.

Mel and Herb Simon, co-owners of the Indiana Pacers, each contributed $4,600 to Clinton's campaign. Mel Simon also gave $4,600 to Bill Richardson, and Herb Simon gave $2,300 to Chris Dodd.

Indiana basketball icons like French Lick native Larry Bird and former Purdue coach Gene Keady have not weighed in on the presidential race. Nor have voters heard from Hoosier heroes Keith Smart or Steve Alford, who are probably content to keep their sterling legacies intact among Indiana fans.

What do these endorsements mean? Given the track record of celebrity endorsements this election cycle, probably not much. At least not until Serge Zwikker, Randolph Childress and Tom Coverdale weigh in.

– CNN Political Producer Peter Hamby


Filed under: Uncategorized
soundoff (134 Responses)
  1. Alice

    Typical. The owners support Clinton. The troops are for Obama.

    April 25, 2008 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  2. beth,tx

    Obama 08

    April 25, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  3. Rich

    Well... I think the planned pick up game, with what I believe is with the college students that registered the most people, will really bring Obama out of the "elitist " world and show people that he is just one of the guys... I like seeing more of Obama doing regular things like Basketball...playing with his children, and just being Barack... You dont see this at all from ANY presidential candidates. It breaks the mold and makes him more Human...

    Go Obama!

    April 25, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  4. NOBAMA NO WAY!

    "Destroying Obama's chance"???

    Give us a break Johnny Boy.

    Obama is the one who jumped in knowing it would racially divide our country. And look at us now!

    OH and PA voted with their instincts and weren't swayed by how many times they saw his face on TV.

    CLINTON FOR PRESIDENT!

    April 25, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  5. Independent

    Slow news day?

    April 25, 2008 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  6. Shane

    I think some you people are living in a "fairy tale" world. Obama is a great candidate and the only reason people don't vote for him is because he is black. So we need to stop kidding ourselves. Women vote for Hillary because she is a woman. There gender basis and race basis. We all know Obama is an exceptional individual compared to Clinton. Look how Her husband and her twist things and the old white folks in PA fall for it. Nafta took your jobs away and you voted for the people that supported it. They are right when they uneducated people vote for Hillary lol.

    April 25, 2008 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  7. Bison

    Indiana isn't like Ohio. I'm voting early for Obama in an hour.

    April 25, 2008 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  8. Mixen

    Time for Barack to do a SLAM DUNK!!!

    April 25, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  9. propaganda press

    good for him

    April 25, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  10. seattle sue

    Johnny Boy, When Obama says he never heard Rev. Wright comments, was that a lie or just a little white fib?

    April 25, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  11. Big D

    I cannot express how disappointed I am by the results in PA. People openly expess their discontent with senator Clinton (overwhelmingly viewed as not honest and untrustworthy, and an extremely high unfavorable rating), yet they still voted for her. To add to my displeasure and confusion, a large majority expressed their opinion that Obama would be the party's nominee, but they still voted for Clinton. If people cannot see through her underhanded tactics or her disingenous attempts to change the metrics of the race to whatever best suits her at the time, our country is not going to get any better over the next 4 years.

    April 25, 2008 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  12. Big D

    I cannot express how disappointed I am by the results in PA. People openly expess their discontent with senator Clinton (overwhelmingly viewed as not honest and untrustworthy, and an extremely high unfavorable rating), yet they still voted for her. To add to my displeasure and confusion, a large majority expressed their opinion that Obama would be the party's nominee, but they still voted for Clinton. If people cannot see through her underhanded tactics or her disingenous attempts to change the metrics of the race to whatever best suits her at the time, our country is not going to get any better over the next 4 years.

    April 25, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  13. alan

    If Obama was a while man, he would still be sitting in the Illinois state legislature.

    April 25, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  14. Dorothy Petrich

    I feel that Obama could easily scoff at anything Clinton has to say regarding his mistakes and put them down as too small to bother with , go ahead strongly on the important issues of the day letting us know how he would strongly handle them, Stop the defense and stress superiority to smallness of mind bickering. GET ON WITH IT OBAMA Dottie ( old enough to know it works)

    April 25, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  15. Michael

    Hillary will do anything, say anything and even go any distance if she have to in order to win the nomination. I don't know why people can't see that she's a liar, I mean a big liar.

    April 25, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  16. Bayou Joe

    JB, Obama destroyed his own chances. All Clinton did was expose the imposter. For that we thank her. Even if she doesn't win and Obama loses the general election, those of us who love our country and support it with our service and that of our sons and daughters will forever be grateful to her.

    She won't win the nomination because the party leaders think they have a hit the fountain of youth for the democratic party. But sometimes these matters are illusional. What appears to be a saviour to some, appears to be the devil to others.

    There will be a day when a Black man or woman will be president. but this is not the day. Not because of ingrained prejudice in some people, but because Barak is not the right Black to bring this about.

    He is not a Black American, he is an African-American, 1st generation, therefore he nor his family have the Black experience of Slavery and denigration suffered by many of my Black friends. There are thousands of well qualified Americans of African descent, and Barak is not one of them.
    Give me and our generation a Black entrepenuer, lawyer, doctor or even a well established politician that cares for his country and we will overwhelmingly support that person. Not because of race but because of accomplishments and ability.

    April 25, 2008 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  17. April in Texas

    Go Obama!!! Heck I saw Obama's basketball skills with that 3 point shot. It will be cool to have a president who has skill.. While I am more a football fan, basketball is cool too..

    Obama 08

    April 25, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  18. fairandstraight

    Johnny Boy, don't be discouraged about PA voters. Sen. Clinton has roots there and many older people live in PA. Therefore, it will be hard for them to accept change in any manner. Also remember that it is the older people who keeps racism alive in the country. Obama did well in PA. To close that gap from 25 points to 9 was a great accomplishment.

    when you hear them saying that Obama are having problems appealing to the white blue collar male voters, they are actually saying that he has problems reaching many that can't look beyond race. No one thinking clearly would believe and have faith in Hillary after that Bosnia lie she told as well as the money they recieved from the Columbians.

    April 25, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  19. Independent-woman-voter-for-Obama

    I am hoping that the voters in Indiana and North Carolina will rise above the fray, and vote for CHANGE.

    Vote for a decent man, who has been attacked from both sides, Clintons & Fox News, plus the AM radio hate-mongers.

    I hope that the people will rise up and say ENOUGH to the politics of destruction!

    Please Indiana, think for yourselves! Don't be fooled!

    OBAMA 08!

    April 25, 2008 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  20. MyPresidentIsObama

    obama OBVIOUSLY has this thing wrapped up. dunno why hillary thinks i would support her after the awful campaign she has run. just like her campaign, her presidency would be fraught with bad selections (penn, solis-doyle) and bad management (she can't pay her bills). if she were running a business, it would have gone under by now.

    April 25, 2008 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  21. Hmmmm...

    And the point of all this was...?

    April 25, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  22. irony

    This is the ultimate irony for the Obama supporters (the smart and educated people) to ponder:

    IF Obama is our nominee, it is because the Washington Insiders that he speaks against (Superdelegates) GIVE the nomination to him.

    It will NOT be because he convinced the electorate with his inspiring words of hope and change.

    Hillary STILL got 50% of the vote even being sabotaged and throttled and handicapped.

    April 25, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  23. Billy From Fl

    Hey, Johnny Boy

    You say Clinton is destroying the country? Get a grip Pal,

    Obama is the anti american along with his wife and pastor.

    Listen Up

    1. Won't wear the american flag pen
    2.20 years with a pastor that hates America
    3. Thinks Penn people are bitter
    4. Will not put his hand on his heart(when everyone else did) when
    the National Anthum played.

    You will never hear Hillary say she is not proud of her country.

    Obama is a liar and that is what they proved on the last debate.

    April 25, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  24. 58 old white ladies for OBAMA

    INDIANA WILL MAKE THE CALL TO SEND HILLARY HOME.

    INDIANA OLDSTERS READ, & ARE LESS HYPOCRITICAL.

    April 25, 2008 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  25. Geri

    Johnny Boy...what gives you the right to call Clinton a liar?? Obama has said a lot of things but those are just"misspoken". He's got a lot of explaining to do when it comes to Wright, Ayers, his wife. No one calls him or them liars so why don't you Obama supporters knock the nastiness off and act like human beings for a change.

    April 25, 2008 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
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