It looks like Mike Tyson isn’t going to be addressing the Republican National Convention this year. And that’s a good thing.
After Bloomberg News reported that the ex-heavyweight champion was scheduled to appear, Donald Trump fired off this tweet:
“Iron Mike Tyson was not asked to speak at the Convention though I'm sure he would do a good job if he was. The media makes everything up!”
Trump didn’t say who would be on the dais, but he has hinted. Last month at a rally in Virginia he declared, “We’re going to do it a little different, if it’s OK. I’m thinking about getting some of the great sports people who like me a lot … [instead] of these politicians who are going to get up and speak and speak and speak.”
Some of these “great sports people” are reputable, even commendable citizens like golfing great Jack Nicklaus and former New York Yankees Paul O’Neill and Johnny Damon. Others are, let’s say, controversial. One, whom Trump mentioned in Virginia, is Bobby Knight, the ex-coach of the University of Indiana basketball team who lost his job for bullying student athletes.
Tyson wasn’t mentioned at the Virginia rally, but it wasn’t a stretch to imagine him on the podium in Cleveland later this month.
“Mike Tyson endorsed me, I love it,” Trump told a crowd while campaigning in Indiana (where, coincidentally, Tyson was once incarcerated for three years on a rape conviction). “You know, all the tough guys endorse me. I like that.”
Few of Trump’s athletic supporters have actually done hard time, like Tyson and boxing impresario Don King, who spent almost four years in prison for stomping a man to death over a $600 debt. But the Trump roster includes some pretty nasty characters: NFL lineman Richie Incognito, who was suspended in 2013 for bullying a black teammate; former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker, who became famous after his 1999 diatribe, reported in Sports Illustrated, against the “queers” and welfare mothers and foreigners who make New York intolerable; former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan, who publicly apologized after he was recorded ranting against interracial marriage.
The list goes on.
Basketball immortal Dennis “The Worm” Rodman is a special Trump favorite. He is also a pal of Kim Jong-un. After one of Rodman’s visits to the North Korean dictator, Trump applauded his friend’s freelance diplomacy: “The world is blowing up around us,” Trump said. “Maybe Dennis is a lot better than what we have.”
Hillary Clinton has some dicey jocks on her side, too, including football immortal Jim Brown and basketball great Jason Kidd, both of whom have famously been on the wrong side in the war against women. But she also has a roster of solid citizens, people like Magic Johnson, Grant Hill and Hank Aaron.
As far as we know, the Democrats are planning to leave their convention stage to the usual elected windbags. But if Trump turns Cleveland into a parade of “winners and champions,” Clinton might be tempted to escalate with a dream team of her own.
That would be a shame. Though its stars have been endorsing candidates since Babe Ruth picked Al Smith over Herbert Hoover in 1928, sports are one of the few areas of American life that aren’t debased by hyper partisanship. It is important to keep things that way.
A lot may depend on Ivanka Trump, whom I like to call "the Donald Whisperer," and who is reportedly trying to convince her father to tone down the “sports heroes” theme of the GOP convention. I hope she wins that battle.
I also hope, in the event of a Trump presidency, that she is put in charge of personnel. I doubt the world is ready for Secretary of State Dennis Rodman.