Banking on his wide array of connections to sports and celebrities, a slew of major former athletes and sports stars will reportedly appear at next month’s Republican National Convention on behalf of presidential nominee Donald Trump.
According to a report from Bloomberg Politics on Tuesday, Trump's campaign aides had linked former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, NASCAR CEO Brian France, former Chicago Bears head coach Mike Ditka, and former Indiana basketball head coach Bobby Knight to possibly have a role at the GOP convention, which takes place from July 18-21 in Cleveland.
The report stresses that even more celebrities and athletes could appear as Trump wants to buck the norm of politicians speaking and appearing, though no new names have emerged of yet. Tyson and France have publicly supported Trump, while Ditka and Knight have spoken highly of the candidate and businessman. Knight described Trump as "the most prepared man in history to step in as president."
Trump will also benefit from Colorado fundraising efforts by former Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan and longtime beer executive Pete Coors. According to The Denver Post, Shanahan will host a luncheon at his Denver home on Friday with a $10,000 fee per couple to attend and as much as $50,000 for a "VIP meeting" and a photo with Trump.
As of now, it’s unclear if Knight, Ditka, or France would speak at the convention. However, Trump took to Twitter to confirm that Tyson wasn't asked to speak.
Iron Mike Tyson was not asked to speak at the Convention though I'm sure he would do a good job if he was. The media makes everything up!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2016
Earlier this month, Trump said in a speech in Virginia that he wanted to form a “winner’s evening" of sports champions at the convention and specifically named New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and UFC president Dana White as supporters.
However, Roethlisberger told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier this month that he neither planned on attending the convention nor speaking, and said Trump is an acquaintance.
Several times throughout the last NFL season and early this year, Brady and Patriots owner Robert Kraft showed support for Trump, but neither has publicly endorsed his candidacy. A “Make America Great Again” hat, one of the signatures of Trump’s campaign and his major slogan, was spotted in Brady’s locker last season and the four-time Super Bowl champion also referred to Trump as a friend.
Trump championed Brady at an April rally in Warwick, Rhode Island, amid the "Deflategate" suspension by declaring: “Leave Tom Brady alone!”
In a statement to the Boston Globe, Kraft had positive words about Trump but didn't go as far as to endorse him. The 75-year-old CEO of The Kraft Group said Trump was supportive after his wife Myra Kraft died in 2011.
"While I am not comfortable discussing politics publicly, I am very comfortable talking about my friendships with people who happen to be in politics," Kraft said.
"After my wife passed in 2011, he was one of the few people who went out of their way and went above and beyond to assist me through the most difficult time in my life. I will always be grateful to him for his thoughtfulness and his continued friendship."
Athletes appearing at the Republican National Convention in nothing new. Olympians Michael Eruzione, Derek Parra and Kim Rhode spoke in 2012, as did Paralympic skier Christopher Devlin-Young. In 2008, former Washington Redskins head coach and NASCAR owner Joe Gibbs spoke in support of then-nominees John McCain and Sarah Palin.