Sports·The Buzzer

How sports figures have joined the U.S. election fray

From Bobby Orr's endorsement of Donald Trump to NBA players' calls for everyone to vote (Democrat), CBC Sports' daily newsletter looks at some of the ways sports figures have involved themselves in the U.S. election.

Bobby Orr endorses Trump; NBA stars just want you to vote (Democrat)

LeBron James and other NBA players have made efforts to get more Americans to vote. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports' daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what's happening in sports by subscribing here.

Here's what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

It's election day in the United States — and sports figures are involved like never before

It's no secret that the 2020 U.S. presidential election has struck a chord with people all over the world, from all facets of life. The sports world is no exception. Here are some ways in which it's joined the fray:

A few big-name former athletes voiced their support for Donald Trump.

The one that drew the most attention north of the border is Bobby Orr. The NHL great, who is Canadian but lives in the U.S., took out a full-page newspaper ad endorsing the current President's re-election bid. In it, Orr claimed Trump "has delivered for all the American people, regardless of race, gender, or station in life."

Golf legend Jack Nicklaus also released a pro-Trump statement last week, saying he had already cast his vote for the incumbent and that Trump had "delivered on his promises" and "worked for the average person."

Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre tweeted that he was voting for Trump because he believes the President best represents Favre's "principles" of "freedom of speech & religion, 2nd [Amendment rights], hard working tax paying citizens, police & military."

NBA players have worked hard to get more Americans to vote.

Given the politics (at least the front-facing ones) of the league and its most politically vocal stars, it's safe to assume that what they really want Americans to do is vote Democrat. Former MVPs LeBron James and Steph Curry are among those who have been more direct, explicitly endorsing the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket.

But most of the players' efforts have focused on simply encouraging people to vote — both by appealing to them directly and by helping make the process easier. Voter suppression, a long-time issue in predominantly Black U.S. communities, was one of the main concerns raised by NBA players when they walked out on the playoffs this summer. As part of their deal to return to the court, the players got the league to promise that, where possible, all arenas controlled by NBA team owners would become voting places. More Than A Vote, an initiative launched by James and former First Lady Michelle Obama, has aimed to help Black Americans get to the polls and to combat possible misinformation and voter-suppression efforts that may be targeted towards them.

The voter drive has also turned inwards. Coach Doc Rivers told the ESPN Daily podcast that only about 10-15 per cent of NBA players reported voting in the 2016 election, but that 90 per cent are registered for this one. And, speaking of coaches, the Raptors' Nick Nurse has been urging Americans who live abroad (like him) to vote.

Other pro leagues have also made efforts to encourage voting. Several NHL, NFL and Major League Baseball teams opened their stadiums/arenas as election centres, as did many in Major League Soccer. MLS also claimed that "nearly 95 per cent" of its eligible players registered to vote, including everyone on the three Canadian-based teams.

WNBA players are trying to get a team owner defeated in her election.

While many are involved in various initiatives to encourage voting, some players are also trying to discourage voting for Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler.

The Republican (and Trump-supporting) U.S. Senator from Georgia is trying for re-election, but many WNBA players would like to see her defeated after she opposed the league's embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement because she felt the move "undermines the potential of the sport and sends a message of exclusion." Loeffler also angered many players by appearing to side with a group arguing transgender athletes should not be allowed to participate in girls' and women's sports.

Players from several teams, including the Dream, showed up to games wearing "Vote Warnock" shirts in support of the Black pastor who's running against Loeffler as the Democratic nominee. Loeffler responded to this by issuing a statement saying, "This is just more proof that the out of control cancel culture wants to shut out anyone who disagrees with them. It's clear that the league is more concerned with playing politics than basketball."

Atlanta Dream centre Elizabeth Williams wears a Vote Warnock shirt in support of Raphael Warnock's U.S. Senate bid against Dream owner Kelly Loeffler. (@E_Williams_1/Twitter)

Quickly...

Two Blue Jays and a Canadian broadcaster are up for baseball awards. Toronto ace Hyun-Jin Ryu was named one of three finalists for the American League Cy Young after going 5-2 with a 2.69 ERA in his first (shortened) season with the Jays. Manager Charlie Montoyo is a finalist for manager of the year after leading Toronto to a surprise berth in the (expanded) playoffs. And Jays play-by-by man Dan Shulman is up for the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in broadcasting. Read more about who's in the running for that honour here, and more about who's nominated for baseball's major awards here.

Some more notable NFLers tested positive for the coronavirus. Denver GM and Hall of Famer quarterback John Elway experienced "mild symptoms," according to the team, and was isolating at home. Dallas quarterback Andy Dalton, who missed Sunday's game with a concussion after taking a brutal hit, is out this week vs. Pittsburgh after testing positive. Green Bay could be down to its fourth-string running back for Thursday's game vs. San Francisco after rookie backup AJ Dillon tested positive and solid supporting guy Jamaal Williams was also ruled out because he was a close contact. Star No. 1 back Aaron Jones missed the last two games with a calf injury and his status remains in doubt. Perhaps in response to the string of new infections, the NFL is now requiring (not just suggesting) players wear masks for all pre- and post-game interactions. Players are also being encouraged to wear masks at all times on the sidelines.

And finally…

Because we could all use some less-stressful Presidential content right now, here's who scored the most NHL regular-season goals during each administration going back to the end of World War II:

Trump: Alex Ovechkin (160)
Obama: Alex Ovechkin (352)
George W. Bush: Jarome Iginla (287)
Clinton: Jaromir Jagr (336)
George H.W. Bush: Brett Hull (279)
Reagan: Wayne Gretzky (540)
Carter: Mike Bossy (221)
Ford: Guy Lafleur (145)
Nixon: Phil Esposito (328)
Lyndon Johnson: Bobby Hull (248)
Kennedy: Bobby Hull (105)
Eisenhower: Gordie Howe (267)
Truman: Maurice Richard (247)

Hat tip for this idea to Jeremy Frank, who did the same thing with Major League Baseball home runs on his @MLBRandomStats Twitter account.

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