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6 athletes who have been vocal about politics

Politics seep into many aspects of our lives, and sports are no different. 

Throughout history, many athletes have taken a stand on political issues. Look to Muhammad Ali, a stark opponent of the Vietnam War. Pat Tillman, who left the NFL to serve in the army. Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who raised their fists in a display widely known as a Black power salute during the 1968 Olympics. The list goes on and on. 

In the realm of recent sports, there have been numerous athletes who have been vocal about politics. Whether it be quietly endorsing a political candidate or speaking on prominent political issues, many athletes have chosen to get involved. 

24 CELEBRITIES AND MEDIA FIGURES WHO RAN FOR POLITICAL OFFICE 

  1. Riley Gaines
  2. Herschel Walker
  3. Caitlyn Jenner
  4. Harrison Butker
  5. LeBron James
  6. Colin Kaepernick

1. Riley Gaines

When Riley Gaines, a 12-time All-American swimmer competed against Lia Thomas, a biological male who swam for a women’s team, she took her experience and became a spokesperson fighting for “safety, privacy and equal opportunities” for women. 

Gaines has testified before the U.S. Senate, U.S. House and numerous state legislatures, according to her website. 

“I can attest to the tears that I witnessed from finishers who missed being named an All-American by one place. I can attest to the extreme discomfort in the locker room from 18-year-old girls exposed to male body parts and having to undress with a male watching in the same room,” Gaines said on her website. 

Riley Gaines at softball game

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Gaines is also the host of the “Gaines for Girls” podcast on OutKick and has spoken to crowds at a number of events.

2. Herschel Walker

Before becoming a political figure, Herschel Walker was an NFL athlete.

He was a running back who played college football at the University of Georgia, where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1982. In 1999, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Walker played 12 years in the NFL. 

Walker was also an Olympic athlete as a member of the United States’ bobsledding team in 1992. 

More recently, Walker has gotten involved in politics. He was appointed chair of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition by former President Trump, according to Walker’s website. 

Republican Georgia Senate nominee Herschel Walker

In 2022, Walker ran for a U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, the state where he was born and raised.  

Walker lost the election to Democrat Raphael Warnock. 

3. Caitlyn Jenner

Caitlyn Jenner is an Olympic gold medalist who set a world record in the decathlon during the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal. 

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Following Olympic glory, Jenner became a reality TV star with “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” 

In 2015, during an ABC TV interview with Diana Sawyer, Jenner came out as a trans woman. 

Since then, Jenner has been an advocate for the trans community. 

Caitlyn Jenner at a Grammys Viewing Party

In 2021, she was the Republican candidate in a recall election against Democrat Gavin Newsom but failed to remove him from office. Even after her defeat, she has spoken about running for office again.

4. Harrison Butker

Harrison Butker sent waves through the nation with his commencement speech at Benedictine College in May 2024. 

Butker held nothing back during his faith-based speech, discussing his opinions on several issues. 

HARRISON BUTKER STANDS BY COMMENCEMENT SPEECH: ‘NOT PEOPLE, BUT JESUS CHRIST I’M TRYING TO PLEASE’

Butker, a kicker for the Kansas City Chiefs, spent time during his speech speaking directly to women graduates and how they should embrace what he considers to be “one of the most important titles of all: homemaker.” 

“Some of you may go on to lead successful careers in the world, but I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world,” Butker said. “I can tell you that my beautiful wife Isabelle would be the first to say that her life truly started when she began living her vocation as a wife and as a mother.”

He also shared his stance on divisive topics like abortion. 

Harrison Butker speaking

“Things like abortion, IVF, surrogacy, euthanasia as well as a growing support for degenerate cultural values and media all stem from the pervasiveness of disorder,” Butker said in his speech. 

“Our own nation is led by a man who publicly and proudly proclaims his Catholic faith but at the same time is delusional enough to make the sign of the cross during a pro-abortion rally.

“He has been so vocal in his support for the murder of innocent babies that I’m sure, to many people, it appears that you can be both Catholic and pro-choice. He is not alone. From the man behind the COVID lockdowns to the people pushing dangerous gender ideologies onto the youth of America, they all have a glaring thing in common: They are Catholic. This is an important reminder that being Catholic alone doesn’t cut it.” 

Butker’s speech brought commentary from the media, athletes, the NFL and others. 

Numerous teammates of Butker’s have provided their own thoughts on his speech. Travis Kelce acknowledged having different views than his teammate but acknowledged him for being “a great person and a great teammate.” 

“I’ve known him for seven-plus years, probably, eight-plus years. And I cherish him as a teammate,” Kelce said of Butker. 

“I think Pat [Mahomes] said it best, where — he is every bit of a great person and a great teammate. He’s treated friends and family that I’ve introduced to him with nothing but respect and kindness, and that’s how he treats everyone.

“When it comes down to his views and what he said at the St. Benedictine’s commencement speech, those are his. I can’t say I agree with the majority of it or just about any of it, outside of just him loving his family and his kids, and I don’t think that I should judge him by his views, especially his religious views, of how to go about life. That’s just not who I am.”

5. LeBron James

NBA star LeBron James has used his platform to speak on issues regardless of pushback he’s received for bringing politics into the game. 

The Los Angeles Lakers star was the organizer of “More Than A Vote,” a group aimed at stopping voter suppression. 

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James has been a loud critic of Trump for many years. In November 2016, LeBron attended and spoke at a Cleveland rally for Hillary Clinton. He later endorsed President Joe Biden in 2020. 

LeBron James Premiere Of Netflix's "Hustle"

James has also made statements about police brutality and racial injustice.

6. Colin Kaepernick

Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem during the 2016 season in an act of protest. 

In a recent interview with NPR, Kaepernick expressed his feelings the NFL still has “a lot of work to do,” when asked if he thought the league had “changed for the better.” 

Colin Kaepernick practicing

 

“I haven’t seen any substantial change,” Kaepernick said. “I think there is a lot of work to do on that front. Obviously, not playing and being out of the NFL for six years is an indictment on where they are currently at. So, I wouldn’t put them at the forefront of goodwill and best of intentions in how they operate.”

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