Manny Pacquiao and 15 Athletes Turned Politicians
Manny Pacquiao is both a boxer and politician but he’s not the first and won’t be the last athlete to change course and pursue their political ambitions.
Manny Pacquiao is set to take on Mexican Juan Manuel Márquez in an epic trilogy battle which could have a bearing on both his boxing career and his political aspirations.
If he wins, he might stay around for one more pay day, before heading back to the Philippines to assume his role as congressman of his wife’s hometown of Sarangani.
And if he loses, he might call time on his storied boxing career and traipse back to his homeland.
Over the years, there have been a host of athletes who mostly after retiring from their respective sports have had an epiphany and chose to seek out a career in politics.
Some successfully and some not, somewhat like their sporting careers.
Here’s a look at some athletes who turned politicians.
J. C. Watts
J. C. Watts short for Julius Caesar played college football quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners before turning professional and opting to play in the Canadian Football League. He retired in 1986.
He was the first African American to win stateside office when was elected into the Oklahoma Corporation in 1990.
He became a congressman in 1994 and served another three additional terms. In 1998, he was elected Chair of the House of Republican Conference.
The 53-year-old Watts retired in 2003 and now plies his trade as a businessman and lobbyist.
In a career spanning 16 years, Chris Dudley played a total of 886 games for five different NBA teams—Cleveland Cavaliers, New Jersey Nets, Portland Trail Blazers, New York Nicks and the Phoenix Suns from 1987-2003.
In 1996, he was the recipient of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizen Award.
In 2010, Dudley was nominated as the Republican candidate for Governor of Oregon. In an extremely close election, he would eventually lose the vote to John Kitzhaber.
Terry Dehere played guard for NBA outfits Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings and Vancouver Grizzlies from 1993-1999.
His political career began in 2001 when he ran for an at-large council seat in municipal elections in Jersey City.
Eight years later, Dehere became vice-president of the Jersey City Board of Education where he served only one term.
The tight end won two Super Bowl rings with the Washington Redskins, in Super Bowl XVII and Super Bowl XXII.
In 1988, Clint Didier joined the Green Bay Packers but retired after one season.
Didier ran for the U.S. Senate in 2010 as the Republican opposition to the Democrats Patty Murray.
He also takes an active role in the Tea Party protests.
The 6’6” offensive lineman played professional football for the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders and finally the Carolina Panthers from 1992-1997.
After retiring from the sport, Greg Skrepenak turned his hand to politics and was elected as the Luzerne County Commissioner where he served from 2004-2009.
He resigned the same year due to corruption charges.
Eight months later, he was sentenced to two years in a federal prison for his misdemeanors.
Jim Schwantz spent time at the NFL’s Chicago Bears, Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys playing as linebacker.
The highlight of his of eight-year career was his call up in the 1996 NFL season to participate as a special teams player in the Pro Bowl.
At present, Schwantz is the incumbent Mayor of Palatine, Illinois after being sworn into office in 2009.
The American football player was a tight end for the Buffalo Bills from 1996-2002. In Jay Riemersma’s seven seasons for the Bills, he scored 20 touchdowns with 221 receptions for 2,034 yards.
Nevertheless, injuries hampered his progress, and he was later released by the Bills. Thereafter, he signed a three-year contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but again, was released due to consistent injuries.
In 2006, Riemersma retired and pursued his political ambitions—he became director of the Family Research Council in 2007.
And in 2009, his intentions were to run for the U.S House of Representatives as a Republican in Michigan’s second congressional district.
At age 20, the Austrian naturalized American won the Mr. Universe contest, from there he went on to become Mr. Olympia champion, winning the title seven-times.
In 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger became the first foreign-born governor to be elected in the state of California since Irish born John Gately Downey in 1862.
He served two terms from 2003-2010, however, in his last term in office, he was voted as being one of the worst governors in the America due to his ethnic issues whilst in office.
The NFL quarterbacks career with Washington Redskins was an uneventful one.
In 1994 when he was drafted to the Redskins, he refused to play for the outfit—holding out for a seven-year $19.25 million contract.
Still, once the contract dispute was resolved his performances for the Redskins were below mediocre—in a game against the Arizona Cardinals, Heath Shuler threw five interceptions.
Two years later, he was traded to the New Orleans Saints where he suffered a serious injury and was unable to take to the field.
He then upped sticks to the Oakland Raiders, where he reinjured his foot, after that, he retired from the sport altogether.
Shuler is a member of the U.S House of Representatives, and since 2007, has been the Democratic Party’s representative for North Carolina’s 11th congressional district.
Jesse Ventura was a professional wrestler from 1976-1985. During his career, he wrestled for various organizations including the WWF now known as the WWE.
In 2004, he was inducted into WWF’s Hall of Fame.
After retiring from wrestling Ventura ran for Mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. He was successful and served from 1990-1995.
In 1998, he was elected as the Governor of Minnesota and served a term of four years.
Recently, Ventura has speculated that he might throw his hat in the ring and run for President in the 2012 presidential elections.
Jon Runyan played offensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles and was renowned for his dirty play during games.
When he signed his contract with the Eagles for $30 million in February of 2000, he was the highest paid offensive line in the history of the sport at that time.
Runyan also played for the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans and the San Diego Chargers.
In 2009, after an eventful 14 seasons his football career ground to a halt due to a knee injury.
Once his playing career was over, Runyan immediately turned to politics, and in 2010, he was elected the Republican’s U.S Representative for New Jersey’s third congressional district.
Runyan is the fourth NFL player to be elected to Congress.
Billy Bradley was a member of the basketball team that won gold in the 1964 Olympics and was also a three-time All-American forward at Princeton.
In 1965, he was drafted by the New York Nicks and later signed with the outfit in 1967.
During his 10 seasons with the Nicks, he won the NBA title twice—in 1970 and 1973.
Bradley served three terms as the U.S Senator for New Jersey from 1978-1979.
In 2000, he ran for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President, eventually losing to then Vice President Al Gore.
To the Phoenix Suns fans, Kevin Johnson who played point guard was a legend. The awards he garnered during his time at the Suns are too many to mention.
He and Magic Johnson are the only two players to have ever averaged 20 points and 10 assists during a season whilst shooting .500 from field.
In 2001, he was inducted into the Suns Ring of Honor and his No. 7 jersey was subsequently retired.
In 2008, Johnson was elected as the Mayor of Sacramento, California.
That was the first time an African American had held office as mayor in the city’s history.
Steve Largent was almost a nearly man in NFL—he was the Houston Oilers 117th pick in the 1976 NFL draft.
Initially, things didn’t work out for Largent, and he found himself on the Oilers chopping block. In the end, the wide receiver was traded to the Seattle Hawks where he became a legend in the sport.
With the Hawks, Largent would go on to achieve greatness as well as holding numerous records—most touchdown receptions (100) and most receptions (819) to name a few.
Largent was also inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Though, since his retirement from the sport those records have been broken.
In 1994 after five years retired from the sport, Largent was elected as Oklahoma’s first District congressman.
And after eight years, he decided to run for Governor of Oklahoma but lost out to Democratic state senator Brad Henry.
Dave Bing was named NBA Rookie of the Year with the Detroit Pistons in 1966.
In 1968, he led the NBA in scoring with 2,142 points, averaging 27. 1 points per game.
In his time with the Pistons, he featured in seven NBA All-Star games winning the 1976 MVP award.
He also averaged 20.3 points and six rebounds per game during his tenure at the Pistons.
Bing retired from the sport in 1978, and in 1990, he was inducted into NBA Hall of fame.
In 2009, the ex-basketball player and businessman was elected as Mayor of Detroit, defeating interim Mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr. in the process.