One of the most interesting and fraught elections of the past midterm elections has been Georgia’s Senate race. The contest is between incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock and former University of Georgia star Herschel Walker, who has repeatedly expressed his far-right and absurdist beliefs. Much of the worry about this election is that it has entered a run-off, and Walker is very close to securing a seat in the Senate. Warnock narrowly beat Walker 51 per cent to 49 per cent to retain his seat.
Walker’s credentials, as well as his policies, have raised concerns among many Georgia voters. With his allegations of domestic abuse tied to his campaign, as well as his opposition to abortion and other political positions, that makes him an easy nuisance. Even those who supported Walker’s political views began to question his policies when it was alleged that he paid for abortions in the early 2000s, which went against his anti-abortion stance.
With no real political background, many worried that if he was elected to the Senate, it would be a bad loss for Democrats. Given that Walker’s campaign managers had to limit his number of public appearances to keep him from sparking more controversy, that should have made many realize he wasn’t the best candidate to vote for. But I guess I can only speak for myself.
Another athlete who has talked about becoming a political figure is retired NFL and Cardinals star Larry Fitzgerald. While this is only speculation, Fitzgerald could run for president, but Fitzgerald has dismissed the claims, saying he’s not interested.
A possible future Hall of Fame wide receiver is a friend of John McCain, who served as the Arizona senator from 1987 until his death in 2018. The relationship has many wondering whether Fitzgerald will put his name on the ballot and run for office in the government. Given his stardom in Arizona, it wouldn’t surprise many if he was running for something in the Grand Canyon State.
Looking at other sports figures aiming for political roles in their respective countries, one that has stuck with me since the announcement is Liberian President George Weah. If you don’t know much about Liberia or football, I think this is the first time you’ve heard his name. The Liberian was one of the most successful strikers of the 90s, even winning the Ballon d’Or for the best player in the world in 1995.
With his success as an athlete, he became a household name in Liberia. Shortly after retiring, Weah took up politics. Ran for president in 2005, lost. He later ran for the Senate in Montserrado County in 2014, winning the election, setting the stage for his eventual presidential bid. He faced Joseph Boakai in the 2018 presidential election, winning the popular vote by a whopping 61.5 points.
However, his tenure as president has not fulfilled his promises to the Liberian people. Much of his time is spent battling corruption scandals. One of the promises he made during the campaign was to fight the corruption that has plagued the country for years. With many of these issues still present under Weah, it’s clear he hasn’t had much success.
That’s not to say he hasn’t tried to do something to help Liberia’s economy, as he slashed government officials’ salaries and imposed a salary cap. Weah also focuses on improving Liberia’s roads, schools and buildings, and provides scholarships to students seeking further education. With Liberia’s general election looming this year, it will be interesting to see how Weah fares in his re-election campaign.
As recent years have shown, celebrities without political affiliations running for government office are gaining popularity, and not just in sports. It disturbs me to think that so many people might value someone’s athletic achievements more than their political competence. I just hope that if America’s sports figures end up winning government jobs in the near future, then everything will work out. But for now, I don’t know if I feel confident enough about it.
Jason Lopez Lopez is a senior writer who writes about the intersection of sports and sociopolitical issues in his column “The Line of Scrimmage.”He is also the sports editor of The Guardian daily trojan.