Several athletes have made the jump to politics, including Jack Kemp (NFL, vice-presidential candidate in 1996), Jim Bunning (baseball, U.S. senator) and Bill Bradley (NBA, U.S. senator). More recently, Kevin Johnson (formerly of the Phoenix Suns) and Heath Shuler (formerly of the Washington Redskins) have made the leap into the political arena.
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On this election day, we pause to consider which present-day and former athletes have the brightest potential future in politics. And we're playing this straight; as much fun as it would be to see Charles Barkley carry through on his promise to become governor of Alabama, we don't see it happening. Here are 10 athletes who we believe could end up on a ballot one day.
Shane Battier: Perhaps the smartest player in the NBA, and no, that's not damning with faint praise. He makes everyone around him better, which is exactly what you want out of a president, and his Duke background gives him the necessary educational foundation. In fact, if he's not elected to office by 2028, we'll be stunned.
Drew Brees: Sure, he's a Hall of Fame-level quarterback. But his connection with Louisiana charity efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina showed that he has the ability to reach beyond the football field and affect people's lives for the better.
Jeremy Roenick: Politics is all about saying the right thing at the right time to the right person. Roenick, the hockey legend, will have none of that silliness. He'll tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. And oh, if he pulled someone's suit jacket over their head in a fight on the floor of Congress … highest ratings for C-SPAN ever.
Magic Johnson: Almost everything he does ends in either success (the Lakers, his business interests) or genial failure (his talk show). Part of the ownership group that just bought the Los Angeles Dodgers for $2 billion, he's one of many ex-athletes with a built-in constituency.
Tim Tebow: He's headed into politics, like it or not. When he finishes with the NFL, he'll surely immediately step into public life, and you'd better believe he'll fire up voters. President Tebow? Start getting used to the idea now.
Chris Kluwe: The Vikings punter has taken a stand on such social issues as gay marriage and voting rights. He's got no problem calling out existing politicians for rampant hypocrisy, though his language of choice wouldn't quite pass FCC muster. He'd make the halls of Congress a lot livelier, though.
Jeff Burton: Sure, Jimmie Johnson wins pretty much everything in NASCAR, but no driver in the garage is more politically connected and aware than Burton. He's already indicated his intention to go into politics when he's done racing. Think a NASCAR driver would get a few votes in the South? Presidential candidates will be lining up for his endorsement in 2016 and 2020.
Derek Jeter: He is whatever you want him to be: charming, gritty, multiracial. He already owns New York, and from that base could leap onto the national political stage. Only question would be what starlet he'd have accompanying him to his inauguration.
Laila Ali: The daughter of Muhammad Ali is an undefeated champion boxer herself, but she's dedicated herself to fitness efforts, most often as an inspiration to younger women. Plus, there's always the chance she could punch out a mouthy critic, and we'd all enjoy that.
Chael Sonnen: The MMA star is quick-talking and endlessly self-promoting, both of which are essential elements for any politician. He's also already penned his own manifesto calling for the creation of a "Chaelocracy." Hey, can't be any more of a mess than we've got now, right?
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