Some sports stars want to make a difference in real life after their athletic careers are finished. In today’s world, elite athletes have celebrity status. In the past, fans used to support teams, but now they more follow individuals. It’s a different era with sports stars having more influence over the public than ever before. Some athletes want to use their public presence to make a difference when they retire from competition.
So today we’re going to take a look at 30 sports stars who entered politics. These athletes come from many different backgrounds, but they were all elite at their respective sports. In politics, they became everything from local counselors to actual presidents and dictators.
Top sports stars touch the hearts of their community and even their nations. That’s why these athletes were able to enter politics. Some of them wanted to use their cultural significance to inspire. However, others went down much darker paths. Check out our list below.
Alongside the volatile genius Garrincha, Pele is one of Brazil’s two greatest soccer players. He’s definitely the most famous. To sum it up, the World Cup winner had a sensational career, scoring 650 goals in 694 league matches. Consequently, his overall total was 1281 goals in 1363 games. Those numbers are simply ridiculous.
The soccer star served as Brazil’s Sports Minister. He even created the Pele law to clamp down on corruption in Brazilian soccer. Ironically Pele later faced accusations of corruption himself. It seems he tried too hard to be a typical politician. Consequently, he resigned but later worked for UNICEF.
Page won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018. It’s no wonder because this man has had an incredible life. First of all, he had an insane career as an NFL player. He was the first defensive player to win the MVP award. To put that in perspective, only the legendary Lawrence Taylor has achieved it since.
The college and pro football Hall of Famer then embarked on a legal career. In 1992, Page won an open seat as an Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. This made him the first African-American to sit on this court. Then, Page managed to win a second term. In doing so, he won the most votes in the history of Minnesota.
There’s definitely a strong link between being in the Hall of Fame and being a successful politician. Largent managed to achieve both. He spent his entire 14-season NFL career with the Seattle Seahawks as a wide receiver. Not only was he a brilliant player, but he also had a fantastic nickname. Fans called him Yoda because he could catch anything.
Largent took political office in 1984, entering the US House of Representatives. Finally, he tried to run for Governor of Oklahoma in 2002. The former Seahawks star was a massive favorite but would go on to lose. He never ran for office again after this failure. One of the reasons he lost was because his opponent openly supported cockfighting. Only in Oklahoma…
Ryun is still the most recent American to hold the world record in the mile run at 72 years old. That should tell you something about how fast he was as a young man. A multiple world record holder, Ryun won a silver medal in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.
The speedster ran professionally for a while before he decided to run for politics. Ryun won a seat in the House of Representative in 1996. The Representative for Kansas served on the Armed Services, Budget and Financial Services committees. However, he’d lose his seat to a rival Republican in 2007.
Campbell is one of the most eccentric personalities on this list. His abrasiveness and self-confidence have often rubbed people the wrong way. However, he was a tremendously talented soccer player, initially performing brilliantly for Spurs in the Premier League. Fans labeled him a ‘Judas’ when he moved to archrival Arsenal.
This sort of decision making is very typical of Campbell. He doesn’t care what people think about him. In short, that’s what led him to run for Mayor of London in 2016. However, Campbell did not succeed in becoming a candidate. Most recently, he worked as manager of Macclesfield Town in League Two.
Why do people always forget about Romario? The Brazilian forward was a soccer genius. He helped guide his nation to the World Cup in 1994. Subsequently, Romario won the FIFA World Player of the Year award. It was a prize which he had definitely earned. Meanwhile, he’s Brazil’s fourth-highest goal scorer with 55.
Romario currently serves as a senator in the Brazilian parliament. When he first ran for election, he won a record number of votes in Rio de Janeiro. However, in 2017, he changed party and ran for Governor of Rio. He finished fourth place in the election.
The craziest thing about Mathias’s first Olympic gold win was that he didn’t even really know the rules. Mathias learned as he went along at the London games. It didn’t stop him from taking first. He then repeated this feat four years later in Helsinki. This made him one of the greatest athletes in the world.
Mathias served four terms in the US House of Representatives. He represented California as a Republican. Two of his terms were during Ronald Reagan’s reign as governor of the state. Mathias fell out of favor with Californian people after the Watergate Scandal.
Dryden’s hockey career was short but incredibly sweet. The Hall of Famer only played about seven full seasons at the top, but he achieved a ridiculous amount in the sport. Dryden won six Stanley Cups and five Vezina Trophies. Furthermore, he was a four-time all-star and the Rookie of the Year.
Then, in 2004, he made the choice to move into politics and became Canada’s Minister for Social Development. After serving two more terms, Dryden lost his seat in 2011. Still, he served his country with dignity and success.
Ugandan dictator Amin is one of the most infamous dictators in modern history. However, Amin was a very athletic young man and was successful. He was Uganda’s lightweight champion from 1951-60. Furthermore, he also competed as a swimmer.
In 1971, Amin’s forces won a coup and he became the President of his country. Nicknamed ‘The Butcher of Uganda,’ he was one of the cruelest despots in African history. An estimated 500,000 people died under his reign of terror.
Bunning threw no-hitters in both the American and National Leagues and a perfect game. Drafted in 1955, he racked up 224 wins and appeared in seven All-Star games across his career. The MLB star joined the Hall of Fame in 1996. He’s still the only baseball player to be a Hall of Famer and a senator.
Bunning started his political career by serving on the city council of Fort Thomas, Kentucky. He slowly progressed from the House of Representatives to the Senate. However, Time named him as one of the ‘Top Five Worst Senators’ in 2006. But that’s okay, because nobody is perfect.
Bing had a phenomenal career throughout the 70s. The NBA star played for the Denver Pistons, the Washington Bullets , and the Boston Celtics. The 1976 MVP averaged over 20 points for his career. He played in seven All-Star games. Needless to say, he became a Hall of Famer.
The NBA star decided to run for politics when he retired from the sport. He ran for mayor of Detroit in 2008 and actually managed to win. However, he chose not to run again in 2013. This was no surprise because Detroit became bankrupt under his watch. To sum it up, that’s not too good for your political record.
Pro Football Hall of Famer Swann is a legend in more ways than one. In 1974, the Steelers drafted him in the first round. The wide receiver was one of the best in NFL history. Consequently, he helped elevate the Steelers to four Super Bowl wins.
Then he went to politics. First, Swann served as chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness. After a successful period in D.C, he decided to run for Governor of Pennsylvania. Had he won, he would have been only the fourth African-American governor in US history, but he didn’t.
You probably know this man better as Kane. Yes, that’s right, The Undertaker’s brother (at least in the WWE Universe) is actually a mayor in the United States now. The WWE legend was a pivotal part of the ‘Attitude Era’ of the organization. His most famous finishing moves were the Chokeslam and his ‘brother’s’ Tombstone Piledriver.
Now, Jacobs has entered civilian life and decided to serve his community as an administrator. He ran for election in Knox County, Tennessee, back in 2018, and won as a Republican. Let’s see if he can handle the brutality of politics without a script.
Long before Usain Bolt came along, Metcalfe was the world’s fastest human. He won four Olympic gold medals across his athletics career. It’s even crazier when you consider that Jesse Owens was one of his main rivals, yet he still managed to break multiple records.
Metcalfe then moved into politics. He began in the city of Chicago, where he served as an alderman. Then he stepped onto the national stage. The former athlete served four terms as a US congressman. Metcalfe was definitely a heavy-hitter and was vocal about police brutality.
Dehere played as a shooting guard for the Clippers, Kings, and Grizzlies. His NBA career only lasted for six seasons, but he still managed to make a lot of money. He even donated $75,000 to upgrade his neighborhood basketball court. That’s definitely a nice touch.
In 2001, Dehere decided to run for a Jersey City election. He successfully won a seat on the council. Later, he served as on the city’s board of education. Although Dehere was vice president of the board, he lost his second election.
You don’t need another job if you’re a basketball Hall of Famer. Senator Bradley disagreed. He starred in the NBA with the New York Knicks and became immortalized in 1983. The Knicks have been dreadful since the 90s, so it shows just how good he was.
His fame was such that he had thousands of supporters. This served him in good stead when he decided to run for senator. As a result, Bradley won the seat and held it for almost 20 years. However, his presidential bid failed in 2000. Still, he had a great career.
White played second base for the Kansas City Royals for 18 years in the MLB. It’s crazy to think it now, but Royals fans didn’t like him at first. However, he’d win them over and become a five-time All-Star. Not just that, but he also won the Gold Glove eight times. To sum up, this man was a genius with a baseball.
The Missouri Sports Hall of Famer decided that he wanted to help out his community when he retired. So, he decided to run for local elections in 2016. He then became a member of the Jackson County Legislature. White made a difference on and off the field. Some sports stars can do everything.
The name ‘Fedor’ carries a mystique factor like few others in combat sports. Many believe that the Russian superstar is the best MMA fighter never to compete for the UFC. ‘The Last Emperor spent the majority of his career in Japan. That’s where he became a superstar and also where he went unbeaten for over 10 years.
In 2011, Fedor joined a regional government in Russia. Then, in 2012, he became a staff member of Russia’s Council of Physical Fitness & Sports. Also, he is the president of Russia’s national MMA governing body. Currently, Fedor is juggling both positions.
Shuler failed to set the NFL on fire. He had brief stints with the Redskins, the Saints and the Oakland Raiders. However, they’d all end badly. Football Outsiders called Shuler “The least valuable quarterback of 1997.” Unfortunately, that would sum him up as a sports star.
Inevitably he retired early. Then, he chose to enter politics and joined the Democratic party. Shuler’s legacy as a politician is almost as bad as his history as a footballer. He failed to oust Nancy Pelosi as minority leader. Then the Republican party redrew his local constituency, so he chose to walk away.
The AFL merged with the NFL in 1970. Before this, they were a respected league in their own right. To recap, Kemp was one of their best players. He won two championships with the Buffalo Bills and the 1965 MVP award. So yes, he was pretty good.
The incredibly popular QB then moved into politics. Kemp served New York as a congressman from 1971-89 and then as Housing Secretary under George H.W Bush. Finally, Barack Obama awarded him a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Khan is a national icon in Pakistan. He captained his country to Cricket World Cup glory in 1992 and instantly became beloved. First of all, he started playing when he was 16 years old. He then went on to become one of the greatest cricket stars ever. Later, Khan chose to create his own political party.
Initially, Khan served in opposition until his party became the second biggest. He built on that momentum and won the race for the presidency in 2017. Now, President Khan is struggling to maintain peaceful relations with his neighbor India.
Zico is arguably the greatest Brazilian soccer player never to win a World Cup. As a result, he is his country’s fifth-highest goalscorer. This skillful forward spent the majority of his career with Flamengo. However, he also played in Japan for the Kashima Antlers.
Many people don’t know that Zico was Brazil’s first sports minister. He held the position six years before Pele took up the role. However, he’d leave after just 13 months. To sum up, politicians kept lobbying against his attempts to modernize Brazilian football. Finally, he’s a technical director back in Japan with the Antlers.
Ventura is best known as a professional wrestler. The WWE Hall-of-Famer performed for many years as ‘The Body.’ Ventura also served as a color-commentator at events. Later, he pursued a career in acting. However, nobody really expected him to enter politics when he did.
First of all, he served as Mayor of Brooklyn Park in Minnesota. Then he went on to be the state governor. It was a massive career change for the Vietnam War veteran. Ventura even floated the idea of running for President of the United States.
‘The Hooligan’ was a UFC fighter before a rare blood disease got in his way. First of all, he broke onto the scene as one of Conor McGregor’s teammates. He even headlined an event in his native Dublin. Then a blood-clotting disease got in his way. Unfortunately, Holohan can’t fight again.
However, it hasn’t slowed him down. Holohan is very proud of his local area. Consequently, he ran for election to his local county council. The former fighter hopes to make a difference for his working-class community. Furthermore, he also runs his gym, SBG Tallaght, and has a successful podcast.
This man is a true high achiever. Johnson spent the majority of his NBA career with the Phoenix Suns. He became a three-time All-Star and was a four-time second-team All-NBA selection. To sum up, he set a number of records for the Suns as a point guard.
Johnson completed his BA in Political Science after he retired. He then opted to run for Mayor of Sacramento in 2008 and was successful. The former basketball star was the first African-American to hold the position and would go on to serve for a second term.
Alongside his brother Wladimir, Vitali was one of the most feared heavyweight boxers of his generation. The Ukrainian superstar had an incredible chin. Nobody managed to knock him down in his career. This heavyweight champion held the WBO title, WBC, and Ring titles. Now, he’s a very successful politician in his home country.
Klitschko is currently serving as the Mayor of Kyiv. Both of the brothers have PhDs in Sports Science. In short, it should come as no surprise that this man has brains as well as brawn. As a result, Klitschko will lead the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform into the next parliamentary election.
Runyan was a highly effective lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles. His incredible physicality and aggressiveness convinced the Eagles to award him a $30 million contract, making him the NFL’s highest-paid offensive lineman. But he also had a bit of a dark reputation. As a result, Sports Illustrated called him the second dirtiest NFL player of all-time.
All those years of playing dirty made him a natural politician. That’s the natural environment for fouling your opponent. Runyan was the U.S. Representative for New Jersey’s 3rd congressional district from 2011 to 2015. He then became the NFL’s Vice President of the Policy and Rules administration.
Weah remains the only African soccer player to win the FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or awards. The Liberian international is one of the greatest players never to appear at a World Cup. He starred for the likes of Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan. Those clubs are European royalty, and Weah lit them up.
Since his retirement from football, Weah has been involved in politics. Incredibly, he has served as President of Liberia since 2017. He promised to fight corruption and poverty in his nation, but so far, the jury is still out. Fellow African soccer legends like Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o attended his inauguration.
One of the most famous athletes on this list, Pacquaio is unbelievably still competing at the age of 40. In the meantime, he’s also serving as a senator in the Philippines. First of all, ‘The Pacman’ is the only boxer to hold 12 titles in eight different weight classes. Love him or loathe him, he’s one of the best fighters of his generation.
To sum it up, Pacquaio has been a senator in his country since 2012. With the levels of adoration that he’s gained, it would be crazy to bet against him winning the presidency. Meanwhile, he balances his political status alongside his boxing career as the WBA (super) welterweight champion.
Could anybody else top this list? Schwarzenegger’s story is one that has inspired people all across the world. His achievements are amazing. First of all, ‘Arnie’ started weightlifting at the age of 14. Next, he became the youngest-ever Mr Universe. Then he became a Hollywood superstar.
His story is that of the American Dream. ‘Th Austrian Oak’ finally achieved his childhood dream of moving to the US when he was 21. Consequently, he’d settle in America and go on to become the Governor of California from 2003-11. Not bad for a man from a village in Austria.