In terms of image, a detail will plastically mark the change in the relationship between the White House and US sport in the transition between the presidency of Donald Trump and that of Joe Biden. It will happen when the newly elected president invites a team or champion who has particularly distinguished himself in his field to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC; and this team or this champion will go there. Put like this can make you smile, and appear a trifle as the story is full of sports receptions at the White House, but the reality is that it will mark a return to normal after the acrimonious caesura represented by the Trump era, by far the most conflicted presidency. with the world of US sport, to the point of being forced, at the height of embarrassment, to avoid the canonical invitations after having received the first refusals. The list is significant, and we do not retrace it except with some milestones: the original sin of the North Carolina Tar Heels, 2017 NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) basketball champions,Stephen Curry , to continue up to the women’s national football team, winner of the 2019 World Cup.
Trump’s was a presidency characterized by a situation of open confrontation with the sports environment , at least with its more progressive wing, a fire immediately sparked by the anti-immigration policies of the outgoing president, constantly fueled by his positions on the subject of rights civilians and exploded through iconic positions taken by athletes, managers and clubs themselves. The powerful images of kneeling on the notes of the American anthem, the activism of NBA and NFL (National Football League) stars on the wave of Black lives matter , Megan Rapinoe’s combative vis polemicaagainst the tycoon president: never had there been such a bitter contrast in terms of substance and tone, a situation that has in effect certified the political value of sport. The latter, probably, is the only aspect of the story that Trump has centered in his invectives via Twitter – a singular situation: Trump has always tweeted from his personal account, which has become an official government source that has relegated to a mere retweet profile. account @potus, acronym of President Of The United States, inaugurated in the Obama era- and in his public speeches, because professional sport in this context has really revealed itself for what it is, that is to say a real political actor. Mirror of society without filters, indeed with the full awareness of being able to count on a global echo and on the ease of grasping the media narrative.
Thus, almost as a paradox but in reality as a consequence of a precise choice of political field, the first US president to have also heavily invested in sport during his career as an entrepreneur – specifically especially football, cycling and golf clubs – and that for this boasted solid economic and also personal relationships with several professional franchise owners and industry stakeholders (from Vince McMahon, one of the wrestling emperors, to Dell Loy Hansen, former owner of Real Salt Lake football, now disgraced due to racist statements), the most visible part of the sport, the one made up of athletes, was found as a combative opponent.
Although it is almost impossible to evaluate the real impact of the sportsmen’s descent into the field in the presidential election campaign, it can be argued that on this occasion the media imbalance of sports support on Biden’s side was also caused by the evident divisive peculiarity of the figure of Trump: Maybe it didn’t erode votes, but it probably alienated him from the explicit support of like-minded athletes in Republican positions. For a Tiger Woods who has never skimped on endorsements towards him – invited, he did, in 2019 to the White House to receive the Presidential medal of freedom directly from the president – it is likely that others have supported him without considering it appropriate, for reasons of image and sponsors since professionalism also thrives on this, clearly taking sides with him.
Now we have to understand what sport expects from Biden. If Trump was lucky enough to be able to take on the assignment of the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles (even though the nomination process had begun in 2015, and the assignment was the result of a compromise in a very complicated situation for the IOC), it is also true that the United States, together with Mexico and Canada, two years earlier, in 2026, will also be called to host the World Cup. Both events will fall in the next mandate and, although it is difficult to hypothesize today – even if only for personal reasons – a re-nomination and a re-election of Biden, it seems unlikely that he could be the one to inaugurate them. For sure the Biden era will normalize the relationship, ending the Trumpian conflict. By the way: the last NBA champions received at the White House were the Cavs (Cleveland Cavaliers) of LeBron James in November 2016. And in the usual photo, next to Obama, the figure of a smiling Joe Biden, then vice president, stood out.
Journalist Tom Shad on USA Todayrecently indicated in Biden’s response to the pandemic one of the points that could have a significant impact on sport: if the elected president, in fact, as per the electoral manifesto, will implement in the short term more drastic and effective measures to combat the contagion than those mild of Trump, the situation will reverberate on sport. Some sports activities could stop for some time (gyms, for example), but, if the different approach works, the improvement of the situation in the medium term could also bring the public back to the plants in late spring, albeit partially and with rigid protocols, and is what the major US professional leagues are asking for. There could be effects on the sports annexes of Title IX (Equal Opportunity in Education), and an example is found inLGBTQ-policy of the electoral campaign , which writes for example the intention to restore the act that allowed transgender athletes to compete in the categories of perceived gender identity. In this sense, a few steps forward – even if it is actually the return of legislation already in force in the Obama era – can be expected.
Of the sporting Biden we know the ancient passion for football, of which in his youth he was a promising athlete at school and university level in Delaware. This curious article in the Daily Pennsylvanian newspaper tells it, which also reports some images of the field of yesteryear, a gem for connoisseurs of the subject. Like Trump – who also played football on the New York Military Academy team – he now dabbles in golf, but the touchpoints end there. Or, at least, that’s what the sports milieu that has opposed Trump hopes for