Seven football figures who have spoken at political conventions

Thursday July 14th, 2016

The 2016 Republican National Convention will feature speeches from UFC president Dana White and LPGA golfer Natalie Gulbis, according to a report by The New York Times.

However, despite numerous rumors that NFL quarterback Tim Tebow would be among those to declare support for the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, Tebow took to Instagram on Thursday to affirm that he would not be speaking at the Convention, and that he never intended to do so.

Trump has touted his departure from convention at the Republican National Convention by including non-politicians on the slate of speakers. But despite Trump’s quest to be unorthodox, he is not the first nominee to include athletes at the event.

Here’s a look at seven other football figures—some of whom spoke as elected officials—who spoke at past Republican National Conventions. 

ROHAN: Donald Trump and the USFL, a ‘beautiful’ circus

Joe Gibbs

The former Washington Redskins head coach and NASCAR championship team owner spoke on behalf of John McCain and Sarah Palin at the 2008 Republican National Committee. He opened his speech with a joke that he was there to support the Washington Redskins, but eventually steered his speech toward his hope for a McCain-Palin presidency to ignite a “spiritual revival” in the United States. 

“By supporting the McCain-Palin ticket, I am confident that we are choosing the right game plan for America!” he said.

Jason Sehorn

NFL defensive back Jason Sehorn, who played eight seasons with the New York Giants and one with the St. Louis Cardinals, spoke at the 2004 Republican convention on behalf of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. He spoke alongside his wife, actress and model Angie Harmon.

Steve Young

Steve Young, who began his NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before spending 13 seasons as the quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, delivered the invocation at the 2000 Republican National Convention. Young’s great-great-great-grandfather is Brigham Young, the namesake of Brigham Young University and the second president of The Church of Latter-day Saints. He has become one of the most prominent Mormons in the U.S., but has leaned left on social issues such as gay marriage.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who is most known for his wrestling and acting careers, also played defensive tackle for Miami’s 1991 national championship team. He attended both the Republican and Democratic national conventions in 2000. He gave a speech at the RNC, but only attended its Democratic counterpart as a representative of the WWE’s non-partisan “Smackdown Your Vote” campaign.

Johnson said that he was not necessarily at the Convention to try to sway votes toward the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate, but rather to ensure that his viewers exercise their right to vote.

Jack Kemp

Kemp, a former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, later became a U.S. Representative and the Housing Secretary during President George H.W. Bush's presidency. Kemp appeared at multiple conventions during his political career, speaking at the 1980 Republican Convention and also giving a speech at the RNC in Dallas, Texas, four years later. Kemp then spoke at the 1992 Convention and delivered a speech at the 1996 Republican convention as Bob Dole’s running mate.

J.C. Watts

A star quarterback for Oklahoma in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Watts went on to play in the Canadian Football League, leading the Ottawa Rough Riders to a 1981 Grey Cup appearance. After retiring in 1986, he went into politics, and by 1992 he was addressing the Republican National Convention as a member of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. In his speech supporting nominee George H.W. Bush, Watts praised the Republican party for its stance on civil rights and abortion. Watts was later elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served until 2003. 

Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford was an All-American center at Michigan who later went on to become the 38th President of the United States. Ford became President after the resignation of Richard Nixon following the Watergate scandal. He became the first unelected president in the history of the United States, serving from 1974 to 1977. He won the Republican nomination in the 1976 presidential race, but lost the general election to Jimmy Carter.

Ford spoke at the 1996 convention in support of Dole and Kemp. “I know a thing or two about Bob Dole,” Ford said. “And if there was anything I didn't know, I checked it out before choosing him as my running mate in 1976. I found Bob Dole fit to be President then; I find him even more qualified now.”

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.