6 Examples of Athletes Mixing Disastrously With Politics

Dennis Rodman has plenty of company.

If you’ve not yet watched Dennis Rodman talk to George Stephanopolous on ABC’s This Week about the NBA Hall Famer’s “diplomatic” trip to North Korea, please stop whatever you’re doing and watch it now in its entirety. It’s about six minutes of awkward awesomeness gawking at a man nicknamed The Worm—who is, no joke, decked out in giant sunglasses, more facial metal than Dr. Doom, and a sports jacket emblazoned with stacks of U.S. currency—squirm as he’s presented, seemingly for the first time (and by a man literally half his height!), with the list of human rights violations and threats against America perpetrated by his “friend,” who he “loves,” and who is “awesome,” North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un and his family.

It’s downright adorable how often Rodman rhetorically tells Stephanopoulos to “guess what?” and how, after jumping with both feet into each telegraphed trap li’l George set for him, Rodman beams when he gets to deliver the line he’d clearly been building to in his head for months: “[Kim Jong-un] loves basketball … Obama loves basketball … Let’s start there.”

Of course, while Rodman’s no Zhuang Zedong, his diplomatic debacle is hardly the first (and certainly not the last) time an athlete has made waves in the political arena.

Curt Schilling Goes Maverick
After throwing his weight behind George W. Bush, former Phillie and former video game mogul Schilling backed Senator John McCain, imploring undecided voters: “… don’t vote for someone a celebrity tells you to vote for, that’s lame, lazy and disrespectful of the rights you’ve been given” before telling them, more or less, to vote for McCain.

The Rock Cooks Up … Dennis Hastert
In one of the more embarrassing moments of the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia (and there were many), Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson warmed up a crowd of 60-somethings for then-Speaker of the House Dennis “The Clump” Hastert. (The Rock takes the stage at the 3:40 mark, but watch the first few seconds to see C-Span’s Steve Scully admit “he has no idea” who the Rock is.)

Sir Charles to Mitt Romney: You’re Going Down, Bro
The Round Mound of Rebound really wants to be governor of his native Alabama. While he’s been politically controversial in his post-NBA career as an analyst (particularly this nugget where, reacting to a shot of Mitt Romney in the crowd, he says “we’re going to beat you like a drum”), he was actually more polarizing as a player. We’re looking forward to his 2014 gubernatorial campaign.

Of course, some of the most embarrassing things politically minded athletes do happen once they’ve been elected to office.

Jesse “The Body” Ventura Slights the Irish
On Letterman, the one-term Independence Party Minnesota Governor quipped that Minneapolis was superior to St. Paul, claiming that the designers of St. Paul’s streets “must have been drunk. I think it was those Irish guys, you know what they like to do.

Jim Bunning Throws a Tea Party
After one of Time magazine’s five worst senators was bumped out of contention by his own party, the Phillies Hall of Famer—according to Time, he showed “little interest in policy unless it involves baseball”—backed Tea Party twit Rand Paul, who he’d later come to regret endorsing. Bunning’s (political) career highlights include filibustering the expansion of unemployment coverage during the depths of the recession and lobbying to deport all illegal immigrants.

Bill Bradley Comes Up Dry
And then of course there’s Senator Bill Bradley, the Princeton grad, Rhodes Scholar and former Knick who really screwed things up when he, um, well, uh … Okay, Bradley’s the exception here. I guess the only “embarrassing” thing the three-term New Jersey reformer did was manage to be stiffer than Al Gore in the 2000 primaries, paving the way for Bush II: WMD Boogaloo.