Air Force One

by Dave Zirin / @edgeofsports

Under normal circumstances, this is the time of year when Louder Than a Bomb puts politics aside and makes a fearless NBA Finals prediction. Sometimes I nail it, like last year when I called the Thunder making it out of a hyper-competitive Western Conference. Other times I lose it, such as when I saw Playoff greatness in a now-disbanded Knicks team led by Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry. This year, there’s no need to devote an entire column to who will be the last two teams standing. Unless a meteor strikes the earth and the Mayans are at long last proven correct, the writing is on the wall. It’s Heat vs Lakers and there’s nothing Joel Anthony or Steve Blake can do to avert this destiny.

Instead, let’s focus on something else happening in November other than the start of another NBA season: a little thing known as the 2012 Presidential Election. Before you stop reading, I, too, would rather put out my eyes with a shrimp fork than read one more article on the scrum to become President.

But I did want to highlight something getting very little play in the mainstream media: the NBA players who have taken a stand against their tax bracket and for President Barack Obama. Given that the conventional wisdom is that athletes don’t speak out about politics, it’s notable that several top stars have lent their money, time and fame to re-elect Obama. They include Paul Pierce, Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, Harrison Barnes and Austin Rivers. They also include former players like the famously apolitical Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and longtime friend of SLAM’s, Etan Thomas. WNBA legends like Dawn Staley and Sheryl Swoopes have put in time as well.

But the fundraisers, the autographs and the fancy dinners are less important than the motivations for why some of these folks have put themselves out there, especially when NBA owners by a substantial margin—MJ clearly excluded—are supporting Mitt Romney. Here, courtesy of Etan Thomas, are what some players said at a recent fundraiser in New York City.

“This is the first election that I have ever been a part of,” said Kyrie Irving. “My father voted for President Obama when I was 16 years old and introduced me to politics. My entire family voted for him. It is truly an honor and a blessing to be able to carry that tradition. He has my support and my vote. I am not afraid to speak out politically, I just have to become more educated on the subjects so that I can speak intelligently about various topics. But I am definitely not afraid to speak on politics.”

“I think it’s a great cause, and for all of us basketball players to come out here and support the President…[it] means a lot,” added John Wall. “The middle class and lower class…he’s trying to get better jobs for them. It doesn’t all happen in four years. It may take eight years to really get us where we need to go. I honestly don’t know why people think athletes are afraid of politics—we’re not afraid. It’s just that sometimes we want to be careful not to say the wrong thing, but we’re definitely not afraid. You see by all of us being involved here today that we aren’t afraid.”

“I feel it’s an honor to be involved here today,” said Austin Rivers. “This is the first year that I am old enough to get involved. I want to take full advantage of this opportunity to be a part of change. We are like everyone else, we want what’s right for the country we live in. I don’t think it’s true when people say that we don’t want to be involved. Look at all of the athletes we have here today…We are involved and we are here to support the changes that are going to happen in the United States.”

Just a reminder: The people you see on the court have more than hops and a wicked jump shot. They have minds and aren’t afraid to use them. No matter your own personal politics, that speaks well for the future of the NBA.