Donald Trump is obsessed with athletes. (Jack Gruber/USA Today Network)
President Donald Trump seems to be enamored with athletes.
He frequently campaigned with sports stars –– or in Tom Brady’s and Bill Belichick’s cases, mentioned their support on the stump –– and even promised to present an “Athlete’s Night” at the Republican National Convention. Though many politicians pretend to be sports fans, Trump appears to be the real deal. This could carry disastrous consequences for our nation.
In a meeting with congressional leaders Monday, Trump repeated his debunked claim that millions of illegal ballots cost him the popular vote. On Twitter, Trump called for a “major investigation” into voter fraud.
Given that Trump has failed to present any supporting evidence that backs up his theory, there have been questions about how it originated in the first place. As it turns out, the genesis of this wild claim circles back to professional golfer Bernhard Langer, who’s apparently friendly with the President.
Three witnesses to the meeting told the New York Times Trump relayed a story about how Langer, a German-native and two-time Masters winner, wasn’t allowed to vote on Election Day. Trump said Langer told him there were many people surrounding him in line who didn’t look like they were eligible to vote. Then, the President reportedly started rattling off names of Latin American countries where he thinks the voters might have come from.
Langer’s version of the story is different. In a statement issued Thursday, he says the voter fraud account was told to him by a friend. He then relayed the tale to another friend, who told Trump. Langer isn’t a U.S. citizen and therefore is ineligible to vote.
It’s beyond troubling an unfounded anecdote, which may or may not have come from Langer, could spur a widespread investigation into voter fraud. But perhaps even more concerning is the fact that Langer’s connection to the anecdote seems to legitimize it for Trump. According to the Times, he prefaced his story by saying he heard it from “the very famous golfer, Bernhard Langer.”
Trump’s long history with sports begins in the early 1960s, when he was a first baseman for New York Military Academy. Two decades later, he bought a team in the USFL, which he destroyed after forcing it go to court with the NFL. In 2014, Trump failed in his attempt to buy the Bills.
A WWE Hall of Famer, Trump appears to embrace the show business and celebrity aspect of sport. That’s probably why he campaigned with Bobby Knight across the state of Indiana, and read aloud an endorsement letter from Belichick in New Hampshire one night before the election. He seems to think sports stars carry drawing power –– and that it’s pretty cool to be in their circle. Like many ex-jocks, Trump carries himself like a fan boy.
Whether it’s aligning himself with convicted rapist Mike Tyson or posing for a picture with serial domestic abuser Floyd Mayweather Jr., Trump loves to associate himself with athletes. But the concerning part is, many of Trump’s sports friends hold some wacky beliefs:
Dennis Rodman: Endorsed Trump in July 2015, called North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un a “friend for life.”
John Rocker: Endorsed Trump in January 2016, once said he’s “not a very big fan of foreigners.”
Curt Schilling: Endorsed Trump last year in a 1,500-word blog post. Offensive Facebook memes aside, perhaps Schilling’s most outrageous comments came in 2014, when he tried to disprove the theory of evolution by asking why apes still don’t evolve into humans.
Knight: Endorsed Trump in April 2016, because he says the now-president won’t be afraid to drop the nuclear bomb.
Brady: Never officially endorsed Trump, but has consistently asserted they’re good friends. He once endorsed a phony concussion-prevention drink and believes in a variety of questionable nutritional philosophies.
Given Trump’s penchant for conspiracy theories and apparent desire to ingratiate himself with sports stars, it’s feasible they would have the President’s ear if they decided to espouse some of their nuttier beliefs. Earlier this month, Trump asked vaccine skeptic Robert Kennedy Jr. to lead a commission on vaccine safety. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched for him to seek Rodman’s advice on how to best deal with North Korea.
When sports teams visit the White House, it’s usually an opportunity for photo-ops and pageantry. But with Trump in the Oval Office, if an athlete catches his ear, they could mean a lot more. To Trump, it seems like sports figures intrinsically possess an air of credibility –– no matter how outrageous their thoughts or stories may be.