NEW YORK: From NBA superstar LeBron James to tennis sisters Venus
and Serena Williams, the election of Barack Obama as America's first black
president struck a special chord with many U.S. sports figures.
The Williams sisters 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.”
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.
James, meanwhile, arrived at Wednesday night's NBA game between his
Cleveland Cavaliers and the Chicago Bulls wearing a T-shirt with the
president-elect's likeness on the front.
James contributed $20,000 to a committee supporting Obama, participated in
an early-voter registration rally and hosted a free concert with rap star
Jay-Z to support the Illinois senator.
James recently met Obama when they both were on David Letterman's
television show. The Cavaliers' franchise player liked that Obama played
basketball 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
NBA commissioner David Stern called Obama's election “inspiring and
“Hooray for the USA,” he said.
Moments after Obama was declared the winner over Republican John McCain,
the Boston Celtics finished off a victory at the Houston Rockets.
“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.
Craig Robinson, who coaches the men's basketball team at Oregon State
university, had a special rooting interest: His sister, Michelle, is Obama's
Robinson was in Chicago for the celebration Tuesday night and was back in
Oregon for practice Wednesday.
“It doesn't get much better than that,” he said. “Although I would
imagine that winning a Pac-10 (university division) championship would feel
pretty good right about now.”
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
“We talk about the black vote, but white America is the one that makes
the difference, and they voted for an African-American,” Hill said. “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.”
NFL players also took special interest.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, who grew up in Chicago
never believing he would see a black man become president, said that watching
Obama deliver his victory speech at Grant Park brought back all sorts of
“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.
Several Eagles hollered Obama's motto, “Yes, we can!” in the locker
room. Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter was among several NFL players wearing
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.”'
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.
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.