President’s Day: Presidents and Sports Decisions

Some decisions have had major consequences.

It is President’s Day. The chief executive of the United States has an impact on just about every facet of American life. That includes the world of sports. A president from almost 12 decades ago is the most important figure in football. Theodore Roosevelt threatened to ban football in America unless rules were implemented to make the game safer after a reported 40 players died from injuries suffered on the field over a two-year period in 1904 and 1905. Theodore Roosevelt brought the presidents of Harvard, Yale and Princeton into the Oval Office and told them fix the game or else.

In 1905, those three along with others repaired the game. Herbert Hoover’s 1932 revenue tax hurt major league baseball attendance. Franklin Roosevelt decided baseball was too important for the country’s morale during World War II and kept the game going. Dwight Eisenhower tried to put a thaw in the Cold War in the 1950s by sending Americans to compete in the Soviet Union in sports events. John Kennedy signed the 1961 Sports Broadcast Act. Lyndon Johnson signed the NFL-AFL merger legislation that allowed football to grow in 1966. Richard Nixon used ping-pong matches to open the door to China in the 1970s. Jimmy Carter ordered a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics in retaliation to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Ronald Reagan’s 1984 cable TV act and 1986 tax reform measures poured money into sports. Bill Clinton was asked in 1995 to mediate the Major League Baseball Players Strike and George W. Bush included an anti-steroids statement in the State of the Union Address in 2004. Barack Obama failed to land the 2016 Summer Olympics for Chicago. Joe Biden signed off on a political boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Sports decisions are just part of the job of being President.

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President Joe Biden (Michael Reynolds/Pool via AP)