Joe Biden will be expected to have a far less confrontational relationship with sport and will continue to enjoy high-profile support; Donald Trump was not afraid to criticise many sports and big stars; live coverage of 46th President’s inauguration on Sky News on Wednesday
By Sarah Dawkins, Dev Trehan and Tejas Kotecha
Last Updated: 20/01/21 7:59am
On the day of Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46th President of the United States, Sky Sports examines Donald Trump’s sporting legacy and looks at what the future might look like under Biden for some of the world’s highest-profile sports.
During Trump’s four years in office, sport and politics became intertwined in a way never seen before in the United States. His opinion and reaction regularly created headlines in the biggest sports as American society got to grips with divisive issues like players taking a knee.
Although the Capitol riots may prove to be the abiding memory of his presidency, Trump has pointed to a number of sporting triumphs while in office, none more so than helping Los Angeles win the right to stage the 2028 Olympic Games.
Los Angeles 2028 chairperson Casey Wasserman told reporters in May 2017 President Trump has «done everything» to support their bid and that «he’s been all I would hope for.»
A month later, Trump met IOC president Thomas Bach and a statement from the Los Angeles Bid Committee praised the US president.
«Since his election, President Trump has been personally involved in helping to make LA’s bid a truly American bid and the White House Office of American Innovation and the US Senate and House of Representatives have been true partners throughout,» it read.
The 2028 summer games in Los Angeles will be a major economic victory.
🥇112,000 new jobs
🥇$18 billion added to our thriving economy
🥇$7 billion in new wages for American workers
Thank you, President @realDonaldTrump, for making sure America achieved the winning bid.
— Kayleigh McEnany (@PressSec) February 19, 2020
Last year, Trump said he did «everything in my power to make sure that LA achieved the winning bid» from the opening day of his Presidency. He added that the 2028 Olympics will create 112,000 jobs and add $18bn to the US economy, including $7bn in wages for American workers.
Los Angeles will stage its third Olympics (previously hosted in 1932 and 1984), and with seven years to go, President Biden will now have a key role to play in the first Summer Games on US soil since the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Trump, Infantino, and a red card
The US was also successful with a joint bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup alongside Canada and Mexico, with FIFA president Gianni Infantino – the most important man in world football – making three visits to the White House.
«Gianni, we’re going to have to extend my second term because [of] 2026. I’m going to have to extend it for a couple of years,» Trump told the FIFA president in 2019.
«I don’t think any of you would have a problem with that,» he added in a tongue-in-cheek comment to the assembled media.
There was an even funnier moment a year earlier when Trump waved a red card at members of the press after Infantino explained what yellow and red cards are used for in football. Both men spoke warmly of each other during Trump’s four years in the Oval Office.
Ahead of last year’s election, Infantino travelled to Washington to discuss the establishment of a FIFA headquarters in the US for the tournament and to review preparations.
A FIFA statement said: «President Infantino thanked President Trump for his great commitment to the success of the FIFA World Cup 2026 and his engagement in a bright future for soccer in the US.»
What could Biden presidency mean for US Soccer?
Biden is now the man World Cup organisers have to do business with and that could be a cause for concern for US Soccer following a lawsuit filed against them by 28 women’s national team players, who are seeking $66m in damages under the Equal Pay Act.
The team’s bid for equal pay was dismissed by a California court in May 2019 after a judge threw out players’ claims they were underpaid in comparison with the men’s national team. After the ruling, Biden took to Twitter to support the players’ efforts, demanding US Soccer change their stance.
US Soccer and the women’s team have since reached an agreement in their dispute over working conditions, although the equal pay saga continues.
USA Women co-captain Megan Rapinoe has been a leading voice in the fight for equal pay and has also been one of Trump’s most high-profile sporting critics.
The attacking midfielder gave a famously prickly response to a reporter during the 2019 Women’s World Cup when she was asked if she was looking forward to going to the White House – an honour typically bestowed upon championship-winning teams – if the US retained the trophy.
«I’m not going to the f****** White House,» Rapinoe replied. «No. I’m not going to the White House. We’re not going to be invited. I doubt it.»
Trump criticised Rapinoe on social media and also took a shot at the NBA, whose then-champions, the Golden State Warriors, had declined to visit the White House after winning the title in consecutive seasons.
Trump posted: «Women’s soccer player, @mPinoe, just stated that she is «not going to the F…ing White House if we win.
«Other than the NBA, which now refuses to call owners, owners (please explain that I just got Criminal Justice Reform passed, Black unemployment is at the lowest level in our Country’s history, and the poverty index is also best number EVER), leagues and teams love coming to the White House.»
The US ended up lifting the 2019 Women’s World Cup and elected not to visit the White House and neither did the 2018-19 NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors.
Professor N. Jeremi Duru at American University’s Washington College of Law is one of the nation’s most prominent sports law experts.
He explained how the landscape might be different in the next four years.
«Professional sport clubs are going to start going to the White House again to celebrate Championships,» he told Sky Sports News.
«A great number of them refused to do so under Trump, understandably so. I think we are going to see that being an honour that clubs really take on in a way that they haven’t over the course of the last several years.
«Without question, there is activism among athletes that exists now in a way it hadn’t existed since the 1960s. I can imagine that Biden – who is somebody who really values sport – may seek to really harness that activism and activate it in a way that helps us move our country out of this posture that we currently find ourselves in.»
US Capitol riots
The deadly riots at the Capitol will no doubt impact Trump’s sporting legacy.
Five people died after thousands of mostly pro-Trump supporters descended on the seat of government in Washington DC, some breaking into the Senate and trying to breach the chamber of the House of Representatives.
Criticism followed throughout America, including the world of sport. NBA players and coaches condemned the scenes as players kneeled in protest at the events of January 6.
The statement was also in response to news that police officers involved in the shooting of Jacob Blake would not be charged. NBA players had protested against racial injustice following the police shooting of Mr Blake in August.
At the time, the Milwaukee Bucks decided to boycott Game 5 of their playoff against Orlando Magic in protest. No professional sports team in America had ever refused to play a game in such circumstances. Two other playoff games scheduled for that night were also cancelled, and three more the following day.
Within days of the Capitol riots, Donald Trump’s course at Bedminster was stripped of golf’s 2022 PGA Championship – a necessary move to protect the brand, according to PGA of America president Jim Richerson.
Well-respected New York Times journalist Maggie Haberman reported Trump was angrier about the PGA’s actions than the possibility of being impeached for a second time.
Hours later, the governing body R&A announced The Open will not return to Turnberry for the «foreseeable future». They were concerned about adverse publicity, with the Ayrshire club under the ownership of Trump since 2014.
A lot has happened in the last week, including the president losing his Twitter feed, impeachment coming to the fore and the PGA withdrawing from Trump National. He’s «gutted» by the PGA move, a person close to the White House says.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) January 11, 2021
One of the most recognisable people to be charged after the Capitol riots was Olympic swimming champion Klete Keller. Keller, who lives in Colorado, appeared at a Denver federal court hearing this month following his arrest on charges brought by prosecutors in Washington. The 38-year-old five-time Olympic medallist competed at three different Games, winning two gold medals in a 4x200m relay team which included Michael Phelps.
Major League Baseball reacted by suspending all political contributions «pending a review of our political contribution policy going forward,» the league told the Associated Press.
In further embarrassment to Trump, his long-time friend and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he would not accept the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In a delicately worded one-paragraph statement, the six-time Super Bowl-winning coach did not explicitly say he had turned down the offer from President Trump.
Instead, Belichick explained, «the decision has been made not to move forward with the award» in the wake of the events at the US Capitol.
A White House official said four days after the riots, that Trump would be awarding Belichick the nation’s highest civilian honour – part of a late flurry of presentations that also included golfers Annika Sorenstam, Gary Player, and the late Babe Zaharias.
Sorenstam and Player accepted their awards in a private ceremony the day after Trump supporters stormed the US Senate and House of Representatives.
But it was the high-profile decision by Belichick which will have hurt Trump, who had read a letter from the NFL coach at a rally the day before the 2016 election in which Belichick praised his leadership, calling him «the ultimate competitor and fighter.»
Trump, the NFL, and college football
Trump’s tempestuous relationship with the NFL began decades ago when the former US President was the majority owner of the New Jersey Generals in the now defunct United States Football League, better known as the USFL.
After the second season, the USFL – which was a spring League – voted to run its schedule alongside the NFL. It resulted in Trump urging team owners to issue an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL.
The USFL won after a drawn-out legal battle but were awarded just $3 in damages before the league was forced to end shortly after, with losses totalling $163m.
Fast forward 30 years to the campaign trail ahead of the 2016 Presidential election, and Trump had his say on the debate around Colin Kaepernick’s stance against social and racial injustice after the San Francisco 49ers quarterback began to take a knee during the national anthem. It divided opinion across America.
Kaepernick was critical of both Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the run-up to the election, prompting Trump to tell a radio show «maybe he should find a country that works better for him. Let him try – it won’t happen.»
The following year, when President Trump called on team owners to «fire» players who «disrespect» the flag, his response was met with more than 200 players from across the NFL kneeling, sitting, or raising a fist during the national anthem. Trump later said his dislike for the protests had «nothing to do with race or anything else. This has to do with respect for our country and respect for our flag.»
The NFL banned kneeling on the sidelines during the anthem in 2018, but following the death of George Floyd in police custody, Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted the league was wrong not to listen to its players earlier, insisting the league wanted to «encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest».
Trump responded to the change in the stance by questioning whether the NFL thought it was now acceptable for players to take a knee. This season, some players have stood for the anthem, some have taken a knee, and others have chosen to remain in the locker room.
Floyd’s killing led to months of protests across America, with Trump often critical of those taking part.
Kevin Hylton, Emeritus Professor of Equality and Diversity at Leeds Beckett University, criticised the outgoing President’s stance.
«When I think about Donald Trump’s tenure, I am astonished by his willingness to reject the presence of white privilege and the supremacy of whiteness in institutions like sport, » Hylton told Sky Sports News.
Hylton, who also chairs Sheffield’s Race Equality Commission, said Trump had shown disdain for social justice movements like Black Lives Matter, while supporting some controversial elements of his ‘Make America Great Again’ support base.
«Remarkably, it could be argued that Donald Trump has been more of a catalyst for racial solidarity in sport than any other US President in history,» he added.
«However, many have come together in sport across the world not because, but as a consequence, of Trump being the most schismatic and cynical of Presidents in the history of the United States.»
The return of the Big Ten
When college football was suspended ahead of last season because of the pandemic, Trump intervened. In September, he called the Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren, with both saying they had a ‘productive’ telephone conversation.
Just over two weeks later, the news was confirmed that the Big Ten had reversed their decision not to play their season. The President tweeted about the return, saying it was great news, adding: «It is my great honour to have helped!!!»
College teams are often significant economic drivers for the regions in which they are located, and one survey claimed 53 per cent of college football fans credited the President with the return of Big Ten football, which kicked off last October.
The season ended earlier this month, with Alabama beating Ohio State 52-24 to win the College Football Playoff National Championship.
The ‘Crimson Tide’ won in front of 15,000 fans at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, and finished as major college football’s only undefeated team.
This year, a Covid-19 vaccine brings hope for a season with full schedules, and many more fans in the stadiums.
College players’ rights set to change
There could also be significant change across the world of college sports under Biden’s presidency. The issue of athlete rights has been discussed frequently in Congress over the last couple of years and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is under pressure to reform.
Under the current rules, student-athletes receive no share of the millions of dollars generated by their sports from the use of their ‘name, image, and likeness’ (NIL).
There is bipartisan interest in addressing NIL but the Democrats are likely to consider more comprehensive change, which would not only allow college athletes to earn money from sponsorship deals with minimal restrictions, but also access to greater healthcare protections and educational opportunities via a proposed ‘College Athletes Bill of Rights’.
Crucially, the Democrats now control both the House of Representatives and the Senate, with a tiebreaking vote in the hands of Vice President Kamala Harris who has previously supported addressing these inequalities for athletes.
This means in the next four years, the underlying structure of college sports in the US could be completely reformed.
Biden ‘an ally to transgender athletes’
Last year, bills to restrict transgender athletes’ participation to their sex recorded at birth’ were brought up in 17 US states, although only one, Idaho’s, became law.
University of Massachusetts professor Elizabeth Sharrow says it may ultimately fall to Congress to clarify whether Title IX – the civil rights law that guarantees equal opportunities for women and girls in education – protects or bars the participation of transgender females in women’s sports.
During his campaign, Biden committed to restoring transgender students’ access to sports, bathrooms, and locker rooms in accordance with their gender identity.
«States that like Idaho attempt to bar trans girls from girls sports, regardless of age of transition, medical intervention or anything else, with a new federal administration, will now be risking lawsuits by the federal government, Justice Department intervention, and the loss of federal funding,» said Chase Strangio, the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) deputy director for transgender justice.
In Idaho, a law signed in March became the nation’s first to prohibit transgender students who identify as female from playing on female teams sponsored by public schools, colleges, and universities. The law was supported by President Trump’s administration but blocked from implementation by a federal judge while a legal challenge by ACLU proceeds.
«The Idaho situation is different because it is a state law that is being challenged under the equal protection doctrine,» said Erin Buzuvis, a professor at the Western New England School of Law.
«That could set some sort of national standard about what kind of policies states are allowed to have or prohibited to have. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the case would say, ‘Here is the one policy that all states must have’.»
Anti-Doping Act splits opinion
One of the final pieces of legislation to be passed into law under Trump’s presidency is likely to have a big impact in the global fight against doping in sport.
The Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, named after the Russian whistleblower who revealed information of the state-sponsored doping regime in Russia, allows the US to seek prosecution for doping offences at events involving American athletes, sponsors, or broadcasters.
It means team coaches or managers and officials from any country can be investigated with potential penalties including fines of up to $1m and prison sentences up to 10 years. Athletes are exempt as they already come under World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sanctions.
US Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis Tygart described it as a «monumental day in the fight for clean sport worldwide» but questions have been raised as to why professional leagues and college sports in the US are exempt.
WADA has also expressed concerns that the Act could undermine and disrupt the existing global legal anti-doping framework and may deter whistleblowers from coming forward, and says it will now work with US authorities on implementing the legislation to ensure «the negative impact of this Act is minimised.»
The future of sport
In his first hours as president, Joe Biden is set to roll back some of the most controversial decisions of his predecessor and to address the coronavirus pandemic.
A 10-day blitz of executive actions is then expected as Mr Biden moves to redirect the country in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency.
Professor Duru is expecting significant change, saying: «Any movement through sport to push society in a progressive direction has faced headwinds over the last four years.
«Now I believe it will be assisted with tailwinds. I’m excited about the possibility of government embracing and unifying the progressive power of sport during Biden’s administration.
«Sport is huge to Biden. Biden had a stutter as a kid and he credits sport with allowing him to gain acceptance and helping him to develop his confidence. He recognises the power of sport so I think the future of sport is strong under Joe Biden.
«He has invited Sarah Fuller – the first woman to score a point in a Power5 college football game – to his inauguration. That’s an indication of the value that he places on sport and society, giving people of all types an opportunity to shine.»
Joe Biden promises an alternative style of presidency to Donald Trump but what difference will he make to the world of sport and how will he start?
Follow live coverage of Joe Biden’s inauguration to become the 46th president of the United States on Sky News on Wednesday 20th January from 2pm.