Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday June 11, 2019
The politics of basketball
The country is roaring for the Raptors as they take on the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals, and politicians are capitalizing on the buzz.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh both attended previous playoff games, and former U.S. president Barack Obama also made a surprise appearance at a game in Toronto.
Former high-level staff members to two prime ministers say there’s all kinds of political and personal reasons for politicians to try to tap into the Raptors’ crowd.
“It’s young, it’s urban, it’s hip, it’s diverse. And so if you’re Justin Trudeau, you dig being around that because you think that’s on brand for you. If you’re Andrew Scheer, being around that demonstrates ‘see I’m not not those things,'” Scott Reid, director of communications to former prime minister Paul Martin, told The House.
But he also cautioned it’s not just about the politics.
“Let’s not lose sight of the possibility that people are fans and occasionally politicians are also people.”
Aside from potential fan-motivations, Dennis Matthews, who served as head of advertising for former prime minister Stephen Harper, said it’s never a bad thing to be connected to a success.
“Politicians like to be associated with things that are winning,” he said.
When asked whether they thought Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would be making an appearance at a finals game, they both thought it’s a possibility — though it would have to be calculated.
Both men said you don’t want a politician at a deciding game (lest a loss result in the notion they somehow cursed the game), and you don’t want them courtside (or seeming out of touch with Canadians).
The diversity of the team and Toronto has factored in to the political appearances at the games, Reid and Matthews agreed.
The team is situated in an election battleground, and the demographics represent votes to be snapped up.
“I’d be looking at that audience base and I’d be saying ‘hey I want these people to to vote for me,'” Matthews said,
Reid agreed, adding how he’d look at those votes for political strategy.
“How do I get those? Because if I do, I am bringing in new votes into the column and I’m bringing them for me.” (CBC)