President-elect Donald Trump has been busy since winning the election, meeting people from all walks of life to fill his cabinet, or merely to obtain counsel on how they think the country should be run. While this assuredly happens every time a new president is set to take office, the meetings draw more scrutiny than ever given the combination of Trump’s bombast and the 86,400-second news cycle.
President Obama used sports to connect with the public in myriad ways, from appearing at events to interviews with Bill Simmons to filling out an NCAA bracket. So did President Bush, who was a former part-owner of the Texas Rangers. President-elect Trump should similarly be using sports to cross bridges with the public and gain goodwill from a genre that has forever been associated, rightly or wrongly, as escapist political neutrality.
Many of the sports figures Trump has met or associated with fit into this category. He has a longtime friendship with Tom Brady, and read an admiring letter from Bill Belichick the night before the election. Barry Switzer visited Trump Tower. Dana White spoke in support of Trump at the RNC convention. Herschel Walker, who signed with Trump when he played in the USFL, supported Trump during the campaign.
However, many of the sports figures he has met with during the campaign or since becoming President-elect are deeply polarizing. It would be one thing if this was over pure ideological grounds, but there have now been several occasions where he’s met with serial abusers.
1. Bob Knight
The former Indiana basketball coach stumped for Trump in places including Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Indiana in the lead-up to the election. In 2006, the Houston Chronicle published a lengthy list of Knight’s alleged incidents, including charges (later dropped due to extradition issues) of hitting a cop in Puerto Rico, throwing a vase at a secretary, breaking his son’s nose on a hunting trip, and choking a player.
Last October it emerged that a book written by former IU basketball player Todd Jadlow alleged that Knight squeezed his testicles and those of other players, and broke a clipboard over his head. These allegations were corroborated by Jadlow’s former teammate Ricky Calloway.
Knight was fired by Indiana in 2000 for violating a “zero-tolerance policy” that had been instituted after allegations emerged that he’d choked a player in 1997.
The latest allegation is by 19-year-old freshman Kent Harvey, who says Knight grabbed him by the arm and cursed at him after the student called the coach by his last name. Knight denied acting inappropriately.
2. Floyd Mayweather
Floyd Mayweather’s domestic violence has been exhaustively chronicled. As the writer Iron Mike Gallego documented for Deadspin in 2014, incidents spanned over the course of 12 years, involving “at least seven separate physical assaults on five different women that resulted in arrest or citation,” among other incidents where the police were summoned but no formal charges were brought. This was the most harrowing incident Deadspin chronicled:
The most famous violent incident involving Mayweather occurred in September 2010, when he confronted Harris about dating NBA guard C.J. Watson. According to Harris, her children, and the cops—none of whom have ever been contradicted on any specific point—what unfolded that evening was utterly terrifying. Although Mayweather and Harris were no longer an item, and Mayweather had his own live-in girlfriend, Shantel “Miss” Jackson, Harris was still living in a home that Mayweather owned. When she returned home from a night of bowling at 2:30 a.m., she discovered Mayweather was waiting for her and talking to their children. They quickly found themselves embroiled in a heated argument, and Harris wisely called the police. She told the officers that no battery had taken place but that she wanted Mayweather to leave the premises. Mayweather, instead, insisted that he wanted to evict Harris from the house. Ultimately, Mayweather agreed to leave.
But Mayweather returned around 5 a.m., accompanied by another man, both of who were let in by one of Mayweather and Harris’s children. Harris was asleep on her living room couch when she was jarred awake by the sound of Mayweather screaming at her about texts he had found from Watson on her cell phone. When Harris admitted that she was seeing Watson, Mayweather exploded. He punched her repeatedly in the rear of her head, pulled her off the couch by her hair, and twisted her arm. He screamed that he would “kill” Harris and Watson, that he would make both “disappear.” Harris screamed for her children Koraun and Zion, aged 10 and 9, to call the police. Mayweather turned to the kids, according to the police report, and yelled that he would “beat their asses if they left the house or called the police.” Koraun tried to run up the stairs, but Mayweather’s associate blocked his path. Eventually, he was able to make it outside, and the police were summoned. Koraun told police he had witnessed his father punching and kicking his mother while she lay on the ground. By the time the cops had entered the home, Mayweather had fled, taking Harris’s cell phone with him. In a 2013 interview with Yahoo Sports, Harris stated that she believes Mayweather might have killed her that night if Koraun hadn’t been able to alert the authorities when he did.
3. Don King
Don King introduced Trump at a campaign event at a church in Cleveland in September. King, in 1966, was convicted of manslaughter for killing an employee of his gambling ring. Dan Wetzel covered the context in 2011:
King held off the wise guys and his power grew. He was both beloved and feared. Then came 1966 when an employee, Sam Garrett, “ran off with (some) money,” according to King. King hunted Garrett down at a local bar, dragged him outside and proceeded to engage in what police charged was a hellacious battle. Garrett wound up dead, his head smashed against the sidewalk.
“We were fighting,” King said Tuesday. “(It was) what I call the frustrations of the ghetto expressing themselves. And when you’re fighting in the ghetto, as you can see nowadays, and it was even worse then, you don’t (back down). So you go out there, you’re kicking and fighting and you have a tragic occurrence. His head hit the ground. Those are the things that happen.”
King spent four years in jail on the manslaughter conviction; Ohio governor Jim Rhodes pardoned him of the crime in 1983.
4. Kevin Johnson
Donald Trump met with Kevin Johnson and his wife Michelle Rhee last month. Rhee was ostensibly a candidate for secretary of education, but a day after the meeting tweeted that she was not pursuing the job.
As Deadspin’s Dave McKenna has chronicled, Johnson has been accused of sexual abuse by numerous women, including one who as a teenager in the 1990’s allegedly received a settlement $230,600.
In exchange for that money, she was told not to talk about what happened between her and Johnson, except to “a priest, a therapist, or a lawyer.”
HBO’s Real Sports also covered allegations against Johnson, in which multiple women spoke on the record for the television program.
5. Ray Lewis and Jim Brown
The two former NFL players met with President-elect Trump today.
While it would be unfair to refer to Lewis as a serial abuser, and we will never fully know what happened on the evening in which a double-murder occurred in a brawl that Lewis and his entourage were involved in, he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in 2000. In his guilty plea, Lewis acknowledged that he “encourag[ed] others to interfere and to hinder the investigation” into the deaths. The white suit he was wearing that evening was never recovered. As our site’s Jason Lisk wrote last year, Lewis’s recent accounts of the evening have defied credulity, and not matched up to what he admitted in court.
Jim Brown is a nuanced case. He has been a significant civil rights activist upward of half a century now. He appeared with Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and others in opposition to the Vietnam War in 1967. In the early 1990’s he attempted to broker peace between warring Los Angeles gangs. The list of his social efforts could be a whole book.
But, as our site’s Stephen Douglas noted this past February, Brown has an extensive history of violence against men and women. As I wrote verbatim last month, an NFL Network documentary about Brown did not ignore his violence history.
The documentary went over several of the allegations specifically, and also showed some of Jim Brown’s denials from at the time of those incidents.
Brown served four months in jail in 2002 after failing to comply with court-ordered counseling and community service stemming from a 1999 incident where he smashed his wife’s car with a shovel.
“We’ve had our issues,” his wife Monique Brown said in the documentary. “We’ve had some things. He’s flawed, but is willing to change. That’s all that any of us can do.”
“There are things that I did that was [sic] wrong,” Jim Brown said. “And there were things that I did not do, and to try to explain it would be to make an excuse for the things that I did that were wrong, but I’ll tell you something: As I sit here now, I wouldn’t try to think to do anything wrong. I’ve learned how to allow a person to slap me, and I’ve learned how to turn the other cheek. I wish I had the intelligence to apply myself better at a younger age and make better decisions.”