Athletes and Politics

A story on the AP wire today provides further details about Curt Shilling’s campaigning for George W. Bush. After endorsing Bush during an interview last week and subsequently apologizing for having taken a public political stand, Shilling has now recorded a telephone message for voters in three swing states. Part of his message:

These past couple of weeks, Sox fans … trusted me when it was my turn on the mound. Now you can trust me on this: President Bush is the right leader for our country.

Shilling was initially supposed to make a few campaign stops with Bush, but had to cancel due to his upcoming surgery.

It’s too bad that Shilling is supporting the wrong candidate. Fortunately, Boston’s general magager Theo Epstein has made an appearance with John Kerry. I guess the smart people in baseball really are in the front office.

What disappoints me most about this whole story is not that Shilling supports Bush, but rather that he felt he needed to apologize for expressing that support during an interview. Athletes should use their public platform to express their opinions on political issues, just as so many musicians and writers and actors have during this campaign season. A couple weeks ago I saw Michael Stipe sporting a Kerry t-shirt during R.E.M.’s concert in Berkeley; perhaps, in 2008 we’ll see Johnny Damon doing the same during the Red Sox World Series victory parade. Then again, maybe asking for athletes to take a stand and for a second Red Sox championship in 90 years is a little too much.