Trump Campaign Lining Up Sports Icons for Convention
Donald Trump's presidential campaign is planning on a political convention packed with sports stars.
“It’s gonna be a great combination of our great politicians," said Ivanka Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee's daughter, during a Wednesday radio interview, according to Buzzfeed, "but also great American businessmen and women and leaders across industry and leaders across really all the sectors, from athletes to coaches and everything in between.”
She added that the July 18-21 convention in Cleveland was "not gonna be a ho-hum lineup of the typical politicians.”
However, the campaign's efforts to secure the attendance of some of their top choices in the sports world have been rocky.
People familiar with the planning of the convention told Bloomberg Politics on Tuesday that campaign aides were lining up several retired athletes, coaches and other sports leaders to appear at the convention. On Wednesday, former undisputed world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson and NASCAR CEO Brian France, two of those on the list, both announced through spokespeople that they would not attend. Former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka, another sports legend organizers listed, said he was willing to appear but had not been asked to do so.
The list of athletes outlined by those familiar with the planning also included Bobby Knight, the former Indiana University basketball coach who Trump frequently credits for his Indiana primary victory.
The sports stars’ specific roles at the convention have not yet been finalized, and it is unclear whether any of them will speak on stage to delegates and television cameras. Representatives of those lined up to appear did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
Separately, third-party groups have booked musicians to perform at venues throughout Cleveland during the July 18-21 convention: 1970s-era rock band Journey; Bret Michaels, the frontman of the 1980s-era metal band Poison; 80s hitmaker Rick Springfield: country singer Martina McBride, who rose to stardom in the 1990s; country band Rascal Flatts, who formed in Ohio in 1999; and The Band Perry, a siblings trio known for country pop songs.
After this story’s publication, Trump said at least one of the sports figures, Tyson, wasn’t asked to fill a speaking role. News of Tyson’s involvement had sparked disapproval online on the same night Trump likened the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal to “rape.”
“Iron Mike Tyson was not asked to speak at the Convention though I'm sure he would do a good job if he was,” Trump tweeted. “The media makes everything up!”
On Wednesday, Jo Mignano, Tyson’s personal publicist, told Bloomberg Politics that the former boxer will not attend the convention. “He’ll be nowhere near Cleveland,” she said.
Trump has boasted in the past about his endorsement by Tyson, who has re-emerged in popular culture in recent years with roles in popular movies like “Hangover” and the publishing of a well-received memoir.
“Mike Tyson endorsed me, I love it,” Trump said in April in Indiana. “You know, all the tough guys endorse me. I like that.”
Following the Indiana rally, Trump was criticized for touting the endorsement of Tyson, who had served three years in prison after being convicted in the state for raping a beauty pageant contestant.
Tyson and France have publicly backed Trump, and Ditka has voiced strong support for the presumptive Republican nominee.
On Wednesday, Ditka told the Chicago Tribune that he was "happy to do it" but was unaware of any talks to appear at the convention. A NASCAR spokesperson speaking on behalf of France said Wednesday that he "does not plan to speak at nor attend the convention," according to Motorsports.com.
Trump has said on the campaign trail that he wants the event to be a gathering of “winners”—and not politicians, like at past conventions. “We’re going to do it a little different, if that’s OK,” he said in Virginia earlier this month. “I’m thinking about getting some of the great sports people who like me a lot.”
The cost for the musical performances will be covered by various private groups, not the Republican National Committee or the convention's host committee, said Kirsten Kukowski, convention spokeswoman. She declined to comment on program details.
The organizations hosting the concerts are Concerts for a Cause, the Creative Coalition, the Cleveland Clinic's educational foundation, law firm Jones Day’s foundation and others. A representative of The Beach Boys, one of the bands that organizers said on Tuesday would perform in Cleveland during the convention, issued a denial to Bloomberg Politics on Wednesday.
The design for the stage, with curving white staircases and a huge digital screen made up of more than 600 LED panels, was unveiled at a news conference Tuesday inside Quicken Loans Arena.