Sports world talks about Obama's win

Thursday, November 6, 2008
GREG WAHL-STEPHENS ~ Associated Press
Oregon State men's basketball coach Craig Robinson, who is also the brother-in-law of President elect Barack Obama, talks Wednesday about election night in Chicargo at a press conference in Corvallis, Ore.

Donovan McNabb grew up in Chicago never believing he would see a black man become president.

Perhaps that was one reason why the 31-year-old Philadelphia Eagles quarterback didn't register to vote until this election.

McNabb, though, had met Barack Obama, believed in his ideas and supported his policies. Watching Obama deliver his victory speech at Grant Park brought back all sorts of memories.

"It reminded me of, obviously, when Martin Luther King spoke and the messages that he spoke about," McNabb said Wednesday. "As a man, if you teared up, it was acceptable because it was that deep.

"For the first time, I had the opportunity to vote and I can say that I was a part of it," he said.

From the NFL to the PGA Tour to the baseball general managers' meeting to a tennis tournament in the Middle East, sports paused Wednesday to reflect on the election.

Several Eagles hollered Obama's motto, "Yes, we can!" in the locker room. Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter was among several NFL players wearing Obama shirts a day after the win over Sen. John McCain.

"Inspiring and transformational," NBA commissioner David Stern said. "Hooray for the USA."

Moments after Obama closed out McCain, the Boston Celtics finished off their win at Houston.

"I thought it was really interesting right after the game, the guys were celebrating Obama's victory more than we just beat the Rockets on the road. I thought that was really cool," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.

"Like I told them three or four days ago," he said. "I told them, `I don't care who you vote for. That's none of my business. I just want you to vote. I just want you to be involved."'

Oregon State men's basketball coach Craig Robinson had a special rooting interest: His sister, Michelle, is Obama's wife.

Robinson was in Chicago for the celebration Tuesday night and was back in Corvallis, Ore., for practice Wednesday.

"It doesn't get much better than that," he said. "Although I would imagine that winning a Pac-10 championship would feel pretty good right about now."

Several players and golfer Boo Weekley wondered how Obama's tax plan would affect their wallet. Previously, Weekley said he planned to retire once he reached $8 million in career winnings.

"That number went up, as of last night," he said before the Children's Miracle Network Classic at Disney.

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen also thought about the tax implications.

"It's a sad day for me. I'm a McCain supporter. There is nothing I can do about it now. Our paychecks will be cut in half," he said. "It is what it is and McCain, I still love you, and Obama, you better do what you promised because the whole country is watching."

Not to worry, Saints linebacker Scott Fujita said.

"We heard so much about how he's going to be taxing everybody who makes over $250,000. That's everybody in our business. So everyone's going to be affected by that," he said. "And my argument to them was maybe there's a chance our tax dollars are going to be spent a little more wisely than they have in the past."

New York Jets nose tackle Kris Jenkins thought about his taxes, but, more importantly, his three young children and his half-brother serving in Iraq.

"I can't be selfish enough to think about keeping all of my money and just being in a better tax bracket because I have to be sure that I do my part for the world to be a better place for my kids," he said.

LeBron James campaigned for Obama and arrived at Wednesday night's game wearing a T-shirt with the president-elect's likeness on the front. The Cleveland star contributed $20,000 to a committee supporting Obama, participated in an early-voter registration rally and hosted a free concert at Quicken Loans Arena with rap star Jay-Z to support the Illinois senator.

James recently met Obama when they both were on David Letterman's show. The Cavaliers' franchise player liked that Obama played hoops in the hours leading up to his election.

"They say that's a ritual for him, like me coming in early and getting a massage before the game," James said. "It got him prepared. The speech was, wow. If it takes basketball for him to say things like that, then let him do it."

Grant Hill and the Phoenix Suns kept tabs on the election during their win at New Jersey. The Suns were on the team bus when they found out Obama had won.

"It would have been nice to have been at home with the family, taking it all in, but we were playing and trying to get updates while we were playing, during timeouts. I will always remember playing against Jersey on Nov. 4, 2008," Hill said.

"We talk about the black vote, but white America is the one that makes the difference, and they voted for an African-American. You can have all the black votes you want, but if you don't have the white vote, you ain't going to win. It just shows a lot," he said.

Venus and Serena Williams embraced Obama's victory during the WTA Tour's season-ending tournament in Doha, Qatar.

"America is a wonderful place. I love my country, and I love living there. I love my passport. But also it's a country that almost since its beginning, it was supposed to be a place where people were escaping intolerance. It became a country that was really intolerant of different minorities and skin colors," Venus said.

"My dad grew up in Louisiana, a place where he was called 'boy' and shown no respect. Where he couldn't say anything. His mother was a poor sharecropper," she said. "So I think it's amazing that America has the opportunity to have someone who is a minority of mixed race or whatever you want to call it."

Sister Serena saw it the same way.

"I was just thinking about everything, thinking about Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and all the pioneers. ... All of these people, Arthur Ashe, who led the way for us. It's amazing," she said."

Kansas City Chiefs coach Herm Edwards woke up daughters Gabrielle, 3, and Vivian, 2, to watch Obama's speech.

"It was about 10 o'clock. They were watching the television and clapping. I said, `There's your President.' I wanted them to know our country is great," he said. "When they have children they'll be able to say, `I saw him. I didn't have to read a history book."'

As the Broncos packed up for their trip to Cleveland, the music blaring in the locker room was Cocoa Tea's reggae song "Barack Obama."

Wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who had worn Obama shirts for all his interviews this season, was beaming.

"As soon as we found out that he won, my mom called me and she said, 'When you have your first child, just look them in the eyes and tell them, you know, you can be anything you want to be,"' Marshall said. "It happened for me and it happened for Barak and it happened for the United States."

Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, the first black coach to win a Super Bowl, hoped Obama's victory would have far-reaching effects.

"My wife was talking to my 7-year-old daughter and she was asking a lot of questions about what electoral votes are and how they work and that sort of thing. I think it could be a bring a lot of African-Americans into the process that maybe weren't in it before," he said.

A number of Steelers players were clearly excited by Obama's victory -- as was their owner. Dan Rooney was one of Obama's most visible supporters in western Pennsylvania and introduced him before a full-house rally at Mellon Arena on Oct. 27.

Wide receiver Hines Ward went around the Pittsburgh locker room with a camera crew, interviewing players about the election for his weekly TV show.

Dallas wide receiver Terrell Owens said coach Wade Phillips used "change" as a theme in a team meeting. "Hopefully that can trickle on down to our season," Owens said.

Boston College receiver Brandon Robinson recalled hearing Obama speak on campus three years ago, welcoming the class of 2009.

"My grandfather's 92 years old, and was a sharecropper, and he lived to see a black man elected president," Robinson said. "It's a pretty big deal."

Robinson, who is biracial, said he has not read Obama's book "Dreams from My Father", adding, "But it's on my desk right now."

Bears coach Lovie Smith began his news conference Wednesday with these words: "It doesn't get any better than this, a historic day like we have today -- the first black president."

Boxer Roy Jones Jr., preparing to fight Saturday night against Joe Calzaghe, followed the election in New York.

"I'm so proud to be an American now, more today than I've ever been in my life, because last night was a true change -- last night we were all equal before we're black, white, Haitian, whatever," he said.

New York Mets general manager Omar Minaya watched the results from the GMs meeting in Dana Point, Calif.

"Because he's a first, I think that he gives you the feeling of Jackie Robinson," Minaya said. "In the sports world, you tend to have people that are conservative. Maybe that will change now."

Tyrone Willingham, who is stepping down as football coach at the University of Washington at the end of the season, said it was hard to imagine anyone not having a reaction to Obama's election.

"Mine is that it's a great day for America because now what is written in the Constitution now comes to life," he said.

AP Sports Writers Tom Withers, Dave Skretta, Ronald Blum, Dennis Waszak, Mark Wangrin, Anne M. Peterson, Arnie Stapleton, Doug Tucker, Steven Wine, Jaime Aron, Jeff Latzke, Jimmy Golen and Alan Robinson, and Associated Press Writer Christopher Torchia contributed to this report.

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