Nixon Comments about Sports, 1969-1974

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While in office, Richard Nixon often gave speeches about sports, or made athletics reference in other addresses.  This page lists some excerpts from these remarks.

"I have always been for the Senators and, believe me, you have to be a baseball fan to been for the Senators in those days.  Of course there were years, and this year is one of those, when you can be for the Senators and have a better than 50-50 chance that they can win, but it was not always that way, I can assure you."

"As far as I am concerned I just want you to know that I like the job I have, but if I had to live my life over again, I would have liked to have ended up a sports writer."

"Baseball is great because anything can happen through the ninth inning."

--Nixon addressing a White House reception of the players in the 1969 Baseball All-Star Game, July 22, 1969

--Source: Public Papers of the Presidents: Richard Nixon, 1969, pp. 538-541


"I really believe while I like to go to a football game live and feel the crowd and the rest, I really believe that when you sit at home and see a football game on television, you can probably see it as well or even better that you can see it by being there, because the camera will watch that T formation or the quarterback and will be sure your're watching the ball rather than the fake."

--Nixon making remarks to the NASA personnel at the Kennedy Space Center, November 14, 1969

--Source: Public Papers of the Presidents: Richard Nixon, 1969, pp. 936


"They're a great team.  They know how to win and they know how to lose."

--Nixon outside the University of Arkansas football team's dressing room, after the Razorbacks fought back to the 39-yard line, only to have the ball intercepted at the 8-yard line on a long pass at the end of the game, losing the contest to the Texas Longhorns, 15-14, December 6, 1969.

--Source: Arkansas Democrat, December 7, 1969, pp. 1


"What does this mean, this common interest in football of Presidents, of leaders, of people generally?  It means a competitive spirit.  It means, also, to me, the ability and the determination to be able to lose and then come back and try again, to sit on the bench and the come back.  It means basically the character, the drive, the pride, the teamwork, the feeling of being in a cause bigger than yourself.  All of these great factors are essential if a nation is to maintain character and greatness for that nation.  So, in the 100th year of football, as we approach the 200th year of the United States remember that our great assets are not our military strength or our economic wealth, but the character of our young people, and I am glad that America's young people produce the kind of men that we have in American football today."

"What we need in the spirit of this country and the spirit of our young people is not playing it safe always, not being afraid of defeat--being ready to get into the battle and playing to win, not with the idea of destroying or defeating or hurting anybody else, but with the idea of achieving excellence."

--Nixon in a speech to the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Dinner, December 9, 1969

--Source: Public Papers of the Presidents: Richard Nixon, 1969, pp. 1013-1018


"The lesson all Americans can learn from Coach Lombardi's life is that a man can become a star when, above all else, he becomes an apostle of teamwork."

--Nixon statement on the death of Vince Lombardi, head coach of the Washington Redskins, September 3, 1970

--Source: Public Papers of the Presidents: Richard Nixon, 1970, pp. 699


"And having won some and lost some, I know--as you know--that winning is a lot more fun.  But I also know that defeat or adversity can react on a person in different ways.  He can give up; he can complain about 'a world he never made'; or he can search the lessons of defeat and find the inspiration for another try, or a new career, or a richer understanding of the world and of life itself."

--Nixon giving the Alfred M. Landon Lecture at Kansas State University, September 16, 1970

--Source: Public Papers of the Presidents: Richard Nixon, 1970, pp. 758

"Here is a man who did sit on the bench.  And instead of whining about it, instead of saying that the coach was at fault or the system was at fault, and quitting or, for that matter, sulking--which seems to be rather a fashionable and common thing to do these days when everything doesn't go your own way--he just kept going along and trying harder, and eventually he came up.  And that's what he stands for."

--Nixon on Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr at a testimonial dinner honoring Starr, October 17, 1970

--Source: Public Papers of the Presidents: Richard Nixon, 1970, pp. 875


"Unless you try to do your best, unless you give everything that you have to your life and in the service of your country, then you have not been the man or the woman that you can be."

"I think that what football and other sports mean to, and what they contribute to, millions of us who are fans--more than the recreation, more than the enormous spectator sport that it is--is the spirit, a spirit of competition, a spirit of trying to do our very best, a spirit of when we lose of trying to win the next time out, and a spirit, may I say also, of being for our team, all the way, strong for it."

"In the spirit of American football at its best, let's always try to be number one, because we owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our country.  Second, in the spirit of American football, let's be for our team, let's be for our country.  As we look at this country, when we hear people say America is an ugly country, let's stand up and answer.  Let's say this is a beautiful country, and the glory of it is that we have the great opportunity to make it even more beautiful in the years to come."

--Nixon addressing a dinner at the Professional Football Hall of Fame, July 30, 1971

--Source: Public Papers of the Presidents: Richard Nixon, 1971, pp. 834-838


"Well first, Frank, as President I have to be very nonpartisan, and when I go to a game, consequently, it is very difficult because I like to be for a team, for a man or a for a team.  I don't mean being so much against the other team, but for somebody I know.  What I have now decided is the best rule is to be for the team in the city that I happen to be living."

--Nixon in an interview with Frank Gifford of ABC Sports, July 31, 1971

--Source: Public Papers of the Presidents: Richard Nixon, 1971, pp. 838-840

"I got into a few games after they were hopelessly won or hopelessly lost, you know, when they put the substitutes in, and finally the water boy, and then me.  That is the way it worked."

"Sometimes you will apply for a job and you won't get it and you will think it is the greatest setback, but just remember it isn't losing that is wrong; it is quitting.  Don't quit.  Don't ever quit.  Keep trying, because this country need the very best that you, the young generation of America, can give to it."

--Nixon, explaining his football playing days at the dedication of Dwight D. Eisenhower High School in Utica, Michigan

--Source: Public Papers of the Presidents: Richard Nixon, 1972, pp. 803-809


"I just want you to know this whole city is very proud of you.  I, speaking as one who heard a few of those boos--and I have heard a few myself in my lifetime--but I heard a few, the great majority of the people of this town back this team.  You have been good for this city.  The city needed to have a team that was winning."

"What really proves that a person or a team or a country has it is not when it is winning and everybody is with it and everybody is cheering it on, but when it has lost one and it does not lose its spirit, it comes back, it comes back and goes on to win."

"It just isn't talent, it isn't physical ability, but that spirit makes a great difference in whether you win or lose."

"In baseball--there is a very great difference between the two; in football, spirit, morale, is half the game--in baseball it doesn't make all that much difference.

"But in football, it is a very contagious thing.  It is a team effort, and if the team has a feeling of being up, then it has got, I would say, a 50 percent better chance today to win."

--Nixon speaking to the Washington Redskins at a practice session two days after their fans booed them in a game they lost to the Dallas Cowboys that cost them the division lead, November 23, 1971

--Source: The Washington Post, November 24, 1971, pp. 1 and Public Papers of the Presidents: Richard Nixon, 1971, pp. 1134-1137

"His courage, his sense of brotherhood, and his brilliance on the playing field brought a new human dimension not only to the game of baseball but to every area of American life where black and white people work side by side."

--Nixon statement on the death of Jackie Robinson, the first black athlete in professional baseball, October 24, 1972

--Source: Public Papers of the Presidents: Richard Nixon, 1972, pp. 1023


"Every sports fan admired and respected Roberto Clemente as one of the greatest baseball players of our time.  In the tragedy of his untimely death, we are reminded that he deserved even greater respect and admiration for his splendid qualities as a generous and kind human being.  He sacrificed his life on a mission of mercy.  The best memorial we can build to his memory is to contribute generously for the relief of those he was trying to help--the earthquake victims in Nicaragua."

--Nixon statement on the death of Roberto Clemente, an outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, January 2, 1973

--Source: Public Papers of the Presidents: Richard Nixon, 1973, pp. 1

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