Sporting ties put the ball in Trump's court

Former footballer Matt Light said Donald Trump was 'not a guy that's afraid to say it like it is and that's what most of the people in this country feel we need'. (Brendan McDermid, Reuters)

Former footballer Matt Light said Donald Trump was 'not a guy that's afraid to say it like it is and that's what most of the people in this country feel we need'. (Brendan McDermid, Reuters)

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has received support from several unlikely groups – and now, it seems, he has one more in his corner: former professional athletes.

The New York real estate mogul has received endorsements from a number of well-known athletes in recent weeks, including footballers Herschel Walker and Terrell Owens, as well as basketball superstar Dennis Rodman. Last Friday former footballer Matt Light appeared at a Trump fundraiser in Norwood, Massachusetts.

Light said: “I think he’s not a guy that’s afraid to say it like it is and that’s what most of the people in this country feel that we need.” He described Trump as “a guy that’s willing to stand up there and take all the heat and say what he thinks and say what means”.

Light didn’t endorse the current Republican frontrunner’s views on immigration, but he did say: “I agree with the fact that we need to protect our borders. We need to protect people around our borders.

“Do we need people to have clear ideas? Yes.
And does Trump have those things? Sure.”

Trump’s relationship with professional sports goes back more than 30 years to his tenure as owner of a football franchise, the New Jersey Generals, which played in the short-lived United States Football League (USFL). It was founded as an alternative to the National Football League (NFL) that played its games in the spring. The league lasted only three seasons and many people blame Trump for its failure.

The current Republican frontrunner pressed for the league to try to play games in the fall, head to head against the NFL and, if that failed, to sue the league under antitrust laws. With its teams facing growing debts, the USFL ended up mounting a lawsuit that was ultimately unsuccessful – although they won on the merits, they were awarded only $3 in damages. As a result, the league folded.

The long-time Yankees fan has made friends with pro athletes. With the 2014 retirement of Yankees’ great Derek Jeter, Trump wrote on Facebook: “My friend Derek Jeter is a special athlete and special person – there is nobody like him.”

But two years before, when Jeter broke his ankle several days after selling an apartment in a Trump-owned building, Trump suggested on Twitter that it was karma. – © Guardian News & Media 2015

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