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. Deb

    Keep Flying to your strengths Hillary!

    You are the only viable candidate left-let's prove it again!

    Hillary or McCain 08

    April 25, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  2. John, veteran US Army

    How about Reggie Miller? He could pull another 2-3% for Obama.

    April 25, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  3. Marjori, Florida

    I wonder if Hillary is thinking of playing games here too???

    Slam Dunk – GO OBAMA!!!!

    April 25, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  4. Hillary the Queen vs The -0 Clown

    Johnnyboy it's too bad you are hypnotized by the Obama mantras. He's a goose in a large field of hunters and Hillary isn't the problem for him. Its going to be the Republicans if Obama is nominated.
    His house of cards built on the backs of naive young people will come falling down on his butt when the going starts to get rough. He is nothing more then shinny sparkles and New Year's Eve goose whistles. He has a good platform but he doesn't have the guts or political expertise to pull it off. Anyway, who would want to vote for someone that calls everyone a racist when they don't see things his way? To think that he actually smeared the former president of the United States Bill Clinton with saying that he made racist statements was the total last straw for me. Bill served the African American community to a T when he was president, we'll see how good Obama does if he is nominated and actually becomes president. Obama won't get my vote even though I have been voting democrat for 40 years, Clinton 08 or nobody.

    April 25, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  5. Alfredo

    Hey Clyburn....Why don't you say something about Wright's and Obama's lying bizzarre. Why because they are African Americans. You are bizarre. Grow up.

    You are the one who is bizzare and a disgrace. Racial discrimination against African American has been overused and misused. Actually you are now beginning to be racial. To get away with bad comments and bad behavior you will always use the racial issue as an EXCUSE. Shut up.

    Beware North Carolinians and Indianians….Obama lied and just a Politician.

    April 25, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  6. DNC screwed up

    The DNC, the democratic party elites, screwed up.

    They fixed the election for Obama- then...
    All the Kennedy, Kerry , Shriver endorsements advantaged Obama.
    The Celebrity bandwagon led by Oprah, advantaged Obama.
    The infatuated Media and their biased coverage and scrutiny of the candidates, advantaged Obama.
    Flawed caucus format- advantaged Obama
    Discounting Fl and Mi voters- advantaged Obama.

    All that and he STILL just has a narrow, narrow lead.

    Now the DNC will force the Superdelgates to go against the rules and vote for Obama- in hopes of salvaging this chaotic primary mess.

    They do that, not because those are the rules- the rules are quite the contrary. They do it because they are afraid of alienating the newly registered democrats and the very vocal African American community.

    They should worry more about alienating the REST of America- including 50% of the democrats who will not vote for Obama.

    April 25, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  7. JBD

    Would you remain a faithful constituent for more than twenty years of a church that preaches racism? Would racist sermons inspire you to have your children baptized by the minister who delivered the racists sermons? Those sermons are public now ... in their entirety! Have you listened to them? Clearly Obama has ... for more than twenty years those sermons have served as his spiritual guidance in life! There is no ifs, ands or buts about it, Rev. Wright is a bona fide racist! Those sermons also have played a HUGE role in deepening the racial divide that remains in this country. Obama preaches unity while attending that church? Are you all blind? Obama is a smart guy ... too smart to convey the spiritual message that he prays to every Sunday on a political stage! Vote on actual merits America, not emotional speeches that promise change just because the speaker knows that, that's what you all want to hear.

    April 25, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  8. DNC screwed up

    errors in first post:
    The DNC, the democratic party elites, screwed up.

    They fixed the election for Obama- then...
    All the Kennedy, Kerry , Shriver endorsements advantaged Obama.
    The Celebrity bandwagon led by Oprah, advantaged Obama.
    The infatuated Media and their biased coverage and scrutiny of the candidates, advantaged Obama.
    Flawed caucus format- advantaged Obama
    Discounting Fl and Mi voters- advantaged Obama.

    All that and he STILL just has a narrow, narrow lead.

    Now the DNC will force the Superdelgates to go against the rules and vote for Obama- in hopes of salvaging this chaotic primary mess.

    They do that, not because those are the rules- the rules are quite the contrary. They do it because they are afraid of alienating the newly registered democrats and the very vocal African American community.

    They should worry more about alienating the REST of America- including 50% of the democrats who will not vote for Obama.

    April 25, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  9. Observer

    Watching Hillary look straight into the camera and lie with severals times with so much ease, makes me cringe. Sen Clinton and i mean to be very respectful, cannot be trusted with power. Look what she does, twisting every single thing and running away with just about anything for to win. She says just about anything to win, can you imagine that combined with power. Good Lord, we are in for a might rough ride in congress. Everything will end up in deadlock, and nothing will be done. Besides she starts with 57% of Americans thinking that she's a dishonest, and rightfully so. Can't we as americans see this?

    Sen Obama on the other hand will be considerate of the other (Republican) sides' argument and then working hard at educating them on why their positions are wrong and at the same time presenting the democratic course to the american people, in order to pressure their republican representative may just be the way to go. I believe this is what Sen Obama has consistently advocated to the american people.

    Dialogue is key in succesful governance. Sen Clinton has not proved that she can negotiate with all americans.

    April 25, 2008 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  10. Johnny

    Guys the game is up .....OBAMA is in charge. Vote wisely and sensibily.

    April 25, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  11. Isaac

    Here's a chance for Obama to make up for the "bowling" incident: Basketball is actually something that he KNOWS how to play! He lived for that sport back in his old school days. I wonder if he's still got it?

    April 25, 2008 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  12. Phil Palladino

    When all is done, Obama has the most delegates, the most votes, etc. I think he should declare himself the nominee in a discreet way and summon all Democrats to back him in the remaining primaries so there can be a unified party asap. Voters should in essence, abandon their attachment to Hilary, and get on the Obama wagon. It is crazy for people to go out and vote for the one who is not going to win.

    April 25, 2008 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  13. ????????????

    this is the stupidest article I have ever seen.... EVER... and the endorsement of uneducated dopes is somehow beneficial? has anyone ever heard Greg Oden speak? You'd have better conversations with a Macaw.

    April 25, 2008 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  14. dead in the water

    Play with Obama today… and fight in Iraq with John in Nov.

    America wake up- Obama is a demagogue- the slickest of politicians.

    But he can not reach most of America.

    The democrats know who to nominate so that they will always lose the election.

    Obama= lose in Nov.

    April 25, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  15. Franky

    You know, I do believe Coach K. "might" go for Senator McCain but I won't be surprised if otherwise......I mean, not HIllary, LOL!!!

    But you know what? I do think my boy can take both Indiana and North Carolina. I think is safe to say that North Carolina is going to go for my boy, I think he'll win a very good amount but Indiana though, now that's a different story...

    I know Indiana votes Rep in the general election but I really do believe if my boy can not only take Indiana on May 6 but also if he takes the "Hoosier State", I really do believe he has a great chance to take Indiana in the GE(General Election). To me, Indiana should be close, and I'm actually gonna do more research whether my boy can take the "Hoosier State."

    April 25, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  16. gerard morei

    In Indiana Hillary will win by a 11% or more percentage margin, We do not like Obama.

    April 25, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  17. Southern view

    North Carolina will go Republican in the general election. It won't help Obama against John McCain. Hillary would be a stronger candidate because she can attract some of the Christian and Evangelical voted which is more important in the general election.

    April 25, 2008 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  18. Obama is the one

    I think Barack should challenge Hillary to a game of HORSE. Now that would be deal closer!

    April 25, 2008 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  19. fairandstraight

    A trial was set for March 2007, but it was delayed due to an appeal of a lower-court's decision to dismiss Sen. Clinton as a defendant. The California Supreme Court upheld the decision, but Sen. Clinton, nevertheless, will be required to testify under oath along with her husband as material witnesses.

    Seven years ago Peter Paul began whistleblowing to the government and alerting the media of numerous illegalities committed by Hillary and Bill Clinton in order to win Hillary’s first election to public office.

    The multi-million dollar donor to Hillary’s Senate campaign that caused Hillary’s finance director to be indicted and tried in May, 2005, for hiding his contributions, and whose complaint to the FEC resulted in a finding that Hillary’s campaign broke the law resulting in the only FEC fine imposed against Hillary’s campaign, will begin the discovery process leading to a trial in Los Angeles later this year of the Clintons and others for destroying Paul’s public company.

    The lawsuit claims that Peter Paul was fraundulenty induced to make a 1.2 million in-kind contribution to Senator Hillary Clinton's 2000 senate campaign in exchange for former President Bill Clinton to be a rainmaker for this company once he left the White House. Paul claims that former President Clinton backed out of the $17 million deal, and his company collapsed

    CNN, WHY IS THIS NOT ALL OVER THE NEWS. is it being saved for the republicans to use in case the superdelegates are forced to give Sen. Clinton the nomination? How far would the Clinton's go to win.

    April 25, 2008 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  20. John Smith

    When I hear someone say that– "people are not as dumb as the Clinton's think", I tend to disagree strongly.

    Just look at the folks who are still out there talking on behalf of an "impeached family"; someone who lied to this nation again and again!

    Look at the people who continue to donate their hard-working $$ to someone with $109 million, who can afford to loan her campaign.

    Most people in this nation are either "dumb" or are simply "racist". Give me a better explanation than the above. I will read your comments.

    April 25, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  21. TEXAN

    Hillary is manipulative, vindictive, devisive, shameless, back-stabbing person. Why people keep voting for her?????

    CLINTONS=REPUBLICANS

    Wake up democrats, you need our support Independents, but we do not see you being very smart on this one. All the support that Obama is having form Independents and some Republicans will go away if you Democrats do not stand up, have a back bone and finish this bloody race that the Clintos + Republicans are doing to your Party.

    Democrats + Independents + Some Republicans = Win for Obama!

    April 25, 2008 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  22. Superdelegate Debate?

    There should be an openly televised debate between Hillary and Obama where superdelegates ask the questions with no time limit. It could be run in a similar fashion as a congressional hearing. This should happen as soon as possible. Hillary is ready. Will Obama accept the challenge? I will defer to Peloci and Dean to determine how many superdelegates can ask questions of the candidates. The entire group of superdelegates could come up with a list of questions and then trim it down to the most important questions that would determine how they vote. Hopefully the superdelegates will use their political savy to vote for the greater good of the general population.

    April 25, 2008 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  23. Jim, Indiana

    Hillary is our choice, 100%, and she's not asking for any time-outs to relax on an island instead of working hard to get her message across to the country!

    Go Hillary!!! You are the only one who can beat McCain and Democrats keep getting the proof!

    April 25, 2008 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  24. Wendy, MD

    If I were 20s, I mignt like to hear from Barack "hope", "Change". The younger, more emotional. Till you become older, you will think about something more carefully. How to hope? How to change? If Obama is elected, he may be stuned. Country is not like a family, a school, even a state, is that so easy to make change? How can you change? Easy to talk, difficult to do. You even wanted to drop out debate, how can you handle a country when something happen. It is not joke, it is for a whole country. Hillary is much more trustable, stable because of her experience, she can fight all the way for American, she won't give up American if there is something happen. But Obama, I can't see that at all. So think about more things, you will make wise choice.

    April 25, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  25. Steve in DC

    Question: How has the Peter Paul vs Clinton controversy managed to stay out to of the media? You've got Bill Ares and Rev Wright broadcast in an infernal loop...the the Clinton's past seems unmarred? How is that fair coverage?

    April 25, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.