From the Department of Surprising Endorsements
Buffalo Bills legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas is not only a supporter of Carl Paladino, but is actively campaigning on Paladino’s behalf, apparently being used to (amateurishly) deflect charges that Paladino is a racist.
This isn’t going to be one of those “I’m heartbroken to find out that _______, legendary _______, is a supporter of Crazy Politician ______/Political Movement ______” posts. One’s politics has absolutely nothing to do with the beauty of a Thurman Thomas run down the sideline off a swing pass from Saint Jim Kelly, much as it has nothing to do with the legend of Velvet Underground (now, if Bruce Springsteen were to come out tomorrow and say he’s campaigning for Newt Gingrich or Hank Williams, Jr. were to proclaim his love of Mayor Bloomberg, we’re talking something completely different, though). And it’s not as if upstate New York’s other options this year are anything to brag about, either, even if they may still be preferable to the blatantly homophobic and Islamaphobic Paladino.
It’s just that I never would have thought of the Thurmanator as the type of athlete to get heavily involved in politics in any meaningful fashion – he’s a running back, dagnabit. Politics is supposed to be the domain of quarterbacks (JC Watts, Heath Schuler), wide receivers (Lynn Swann, Steve Largent), and maybe the occasional lineman (Jon Runyan). At most, running backs are supposed to be politically eclectic jurists, not dedicated politickers. And indeed, it doesn’t appear that Thomas has so much as donated to any campaigns in his entire life.
That Thomas is supporting a Tea Party Republican – albeit one who hails from Western New York – only makes this stranger still. Heck, even former Republican governor George Pataki waited until the last minute to endorse Paladino.
Then again, maybe there’s more to this than politics. (Puts on tin foil hat). Maybe Jim Kelly has enlisted the Thurmanator to do some favors for Paladino – one of the few deep pockets remaining in Western New York – in order to ensure Paladino’s participation as a minority investor in Kelly’s eventual purchase of the Buffalo Bills, which would keep the Bills in Buffalo after current owner Ralph Wilson finally joins AFL co-founder Lamar Hunt in the Great NFL Rival League in the Sky.
(Takes off tin foil hat). Unfortunately, given Paladino’s repeated assasinations of his own character, it’s difficult to believe that the NFL would approve any prospective ownership group with him as a member, especially if disapproving of him meant that the NFL would be able to fulfill its dream of moving the Bills to Los Angeles.
So this just strikes me as one of the odder celebrity campaign endorsements that I’ve ever seen. Campaigning for Paladino has terribly little upside, since he has never had a chance of winning and looks set to get completely trounced on Election Day by Andrew Cuomo. Even giving Paladino every possible positive inference, the man’s campaign has been highly divisive and polarizing; since Thomas is already beloved by basically everyone in Western New York, campaigning for such a figure cannot help Thomas’ reputation with anyone relevant, but can certainly hurt it.
It’s certainly possible that Thomas is more coming to the assistance of a longtime personal friend than intentionally throwing his hat into the political arena for the first time, but that explanation doesn’t make much sense given that Thomas’ participation was purportedly “arranged through a mutual friend” rather than the result of a direct offer from Thomas or request by Paladino. And if Thomas had a history of involvement in local or national Republican politics, then one could chalk the endorsement and campaigning up to that history; but so far as I can tell, Thomas has never gotten involved in politics on any level in the past.
So what gives? Why choose this candidate in this election to throw his hat into the political arena? Or maybe the ridiculous conspiracy theory is right, and Thomas really is just trying to salvage the reputation of a prospective investor in the eventual Jim Kelly-led purchase of the Bills (in which Thomas is himself quite possibly a co-investor)?