A Brief History of Athletes at the Democratic National Convention

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Photo: (Getty Images)

The Democratic National Convention starts tonight in a way reminiscent of televised live pro sports. There will be no crowd, cheers may be artificial, and personal bubbles — instead of congregating in Milwaukee — will be used to keep everyone safe.

The convention will look a lot different this year, obviously. Not just because of where the speakers will be speaking, but who the speakers will be.

Celebrities, artists, and even athletes, have spoken at the convention. This year former Tennessee Titan and current congressman Colin Allred will address the nation.

Here are a few other athletes who have made appearances over the years:

Advertisement

2 / 11

Bill Bradley - 1992

Bill Bradley - 1992

Former U.S. Senator and Knicks great Bill Bradley delivered the keynote speech at the 1992 Democratic National Convention in New York City. Under his retired number in the Garden’s rafters, Bradley spoke about the need to elect a young governor, Bill Clinton, to the presidency. In the crowd that night, C-SPAN showed an adoring audience, including Bradley’s former teammate, Phil Jackson, and then-NBA Commissioner David Stern.

Bradley, a two-time NBA champion and Olympic gold medalist, spoke again at the 2000 DNC after unsuccessfully running for President in 2000.

Advertisement

3 / 11

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 2016

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - 2016

One of the most popular speeches at the 2016 Democratic National Convention was made by the family of Captain Humayun Khan, a Muslim-American Army officer who died during the Iraq war. But it was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who introduced the family on the convention floor.

In his speech, Abdul-Jabbar, who converted to Islam in 1971, focused on the xenophobic and religiously bigoted rhetoric of then-candidate Trump. He called Trump’s discriminatory proposed policies “a result of fear.”

Illustration for article titled A Brief History of Athletes at the Democratic National Convention
Screenshot:

In 2012, Abdul-Jabbar began a professional relationship with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she appointed him as the United State’s Global Cultural Ambassador.

Advertisement

4 / 11

Gold Medal Gymnasts - 2012

Gold Medal Gymnasts - 2012

Illustration for article titled A Brief History of Athletes at the Democratic National Convention
Photo: (Getty Images)

Gabrielle Douglas, Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, Abby Wambach, Laura Cheney, Dana Vollmer, and Rebecca Soni

These Olympic champions did not take the floor of the DNC, instead they hosted a luncheon that appeared on the 2012 convention calendar. The event was created to promote children’s health and wellness. It occurred just weeks after the 2012 summer Olympics in London, where the U.S. won more medals than any other country.

The luncheon included American gold medalists in gymnastics (Gabrielle Douglas, Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber), swimming (Rebecca Soni and Dana Vollmer), and soccer (Abby Wambach and Lauren Cheney).

Advertisement

5 / 11

Colin Allred - 2020

Colin Allred - 2020

Illustration for article titled A Brief History of Athletes at the Democratic National Convention
Photo: (Getty Images)

Allred, another athlete-turned-politician, will speak at this year’s virtual DNC. Instead of giving a traditional keynote speech Tuesday night, Democrats opted to split the address 17 ways among rising democratic stars. The former Titan won a close House contest in 2018, ousting a longtime Republican incumbent. Rep. Allred will speak in a group of other young politicians, headlined by Stacey Abrams, around the theme “leadership matters.”

Advertisement

6 / 11

Shawn Johnson - 2008

Shawn Johnson - 2008

Illustration for article titled A Brief History of Athletes at the Democratic National Convention
Photo: (Getty Images)

In the summer of 2008, Shawn Johnson won four Olympic medals in Beijing. She returned home to late-night talk show requests and an invite to Dancing With the Stars, which she later won. But weeks after the games, she led the pledge of allegiance at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.






Advertisement

7 / 11

Jason and Jarron Collins - 2016

Jason and Jarron Collins - 2016

Illustration for article titled A Brief History of Athletes at the Democratic National Convention
Photo: (Getty Images)

Before Jason Collins came out to the world on the cover of Sports Illustrated, he came out to the Clinton family. He has known Chelsea Clinton for years — they were classmates and friends at Stanford. Shortly after the conversation with the Clintons, Jason became the first openly gay player in the NBA.

On the floor of the convention, Jason and his brother Jarron, who also played in the league, spoke under the theme of “ensuring equality.”

Advertisement

8 / 11

Craig Robinson - 2008, 2012

Craig Robinson - 2008, 2012

Illustration for article titled A Brief History of Athletes at the Democratic National Convention
Photo: (Getty Images)

Never heard of Craig Robinson? You’re probably not alone. The former college basketball coach and current executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches spoke at two conventions due to his relationship with the Obamas — he’s Michelle’s brother. He introduced the former first lady at the 2008 convention.

Robinson had a successful head coaching career at Brown and Oregon State. He also worked for two NBA teams, the Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks, as a VP of player development.

Advertisement

9 / 11

Kevin Johnson - 2012

Kevin Johnson - 2012

Illustration for article titled A Brief History of Athletes at the Democratic National Convention
Photo: (Getty Images)

Disgraced former Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson once spoke to a group of college democrats at the 2012 DNC. The ex-mayor and Kings guard has been accused of sexual assault on multiple occasions. Investigations by Deadspin in 2015 led ESPN to cancel its scheduled 30 for 30 on Johnson’s fight to keep the Kings in Sacramento.

Advertisement

10 / 11

Cory Booker - 2012, 2016, 2020

Cory Booker - 2012, 2016, 2020

Illustration for article titled A Brief History of Athletes at the Democratic National Convention
Photo: (Getty Images)

Another New Jersey senator with a history of playing ball is Cory Booker. Booker played tight end for Stanford in 1989 and 1990. He was a highly-recruited prospect out of Bergen County, NJ. Booker, who ran for the 2020 nomination himself, has spoken at multiple conventions and will give an address at this year’s virtual gathering on Thursday.

Advertisement

11 / 11