Mike Ditka declines Trump invite to speak at RNC convention

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Mike Ditka, Mike Tyson, Bob Knight, Donald Trump, Brian France, Quicken Loans Arena. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News, photos: Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images, AP, Darron Cummings/AP, Bob Leverone/NASCAR via Getty Images, Mark Gillispie/AP)
Mike Ditka, Mike Tyson, Bob Knight, Donald Trump, Brian France, Quicken Loans Arena. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News, photos: Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images, AP, Darron Cummings/AP, Bob Leverone/NASCAR via Getty Images, Mark Gillispie/AP)

Reports leaked out of the camp of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump earlier this week that sports notables like Mike Tyson, Bobby Knight, Mike Ditka, and NASCAR CEO Brian France would speak in support of Trump at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

The idea of an arch-conservative like Ditka preaching the virtues of Trump wasn’t surprising. One problem: nobody from Trump’s team reached out to Ditka himself, and Ditka has declined to speak.

“No one’s ever talked to me about it,” Ditka told the Chicago Tribune. “I have no idea where it’s coming from.” Shortly afterward, Trump himself apparently reached out to Ditka, but Iron Mike gave him the same answer: “I spoke with Mr. Trump this afternoon and he invited me. But I don’t think I’m going to go.”

The rest of the list of sports icons didn’t pan out the way Trump’s camp intended. While Knight may still speak, as he’s already introduced Trump to crowds before, both Tyson and France have declined to appear at the convention. France faced a firestorm of criticism for speaking in support of Trump earlier this year, and NASCAR officials indicated France would neither speak at nor attend the GOP convention. Trump noted via Twitter that Tyson would not be speaking, and naturally, blamed the media for the report.

Before leaping to the assumption that the media got the news wrong, however, it’s worth noting that Trump himself has gone down this same incorrect-presumption-of-support road before. Speaking in Pittsburgh in June, Trump referenced hometown quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and noted, “he’s with us 100 percent,” indicating he expected Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, and others to speak at the convention. But Roethlisberger, through his agent, declined to endorse Trump and will not be speaking at the Republican convention. Trump also insisted that he had the endorsement of boxing promoter Don King, even though King explicitly denied he had endorsed Trump.

As for Ditka: lest anyone think Da Coach has gone soft, he made sure to indicate that he remained in support of Trump overall. “The Republican Party has its head up its [posterior],” he said. “If he’s the candidate, you’ve got to get behind him. It does the party no good. They’re a bunch of [anatomically specific posterior reference]s.”

He also downplayed any possible negative outcome from a Trump presidency: “America’s pretty resilient. We’ve survived the last seven years, haven’t we?”

Ditka holds some small cachet as the man who, in some fanciful theories, could have halted the political rise of Barack Obama; Ditka had been mentioned as a 2004 U.S. Senate candidate for the state of Illinois but never ran, and Obama, then a state senator, won that seat en route to the presidency.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.