GREEN BAY – Charles Woodson believes two things: President Barack Obama is right for the United States, but he's still wrong about his football allegiances.
“I’ll tell you this: I think he’s still bitter about this Packers-Bears rivalry,” the Green Bay Packers safety said with a laugh Thursday afternoon, after appearing earlier in the day at the President’s campaign stop at Austin Straubel International Airport.
Woodson and President Obama have a history, of course, from the President providing fodder for his inspirational pregame speeches on the road to Super Bowl XLV, to Woodson sending the Commander in Chief a signed jersey when he came to town post-Super Bowl and Woodson couldn’t be there for his appearance, to sharing a laugh at the 2011 Rose Garden ceremony to commemorate the Packers’ championship.
So when a member of the Obama campaign reached out to Woodson with an invitation to participate in Thursday’s festivities – the President had canceled a scheduled Tuesday appearance in Green Bay in the wake of Hurricane Sandy – Woodson jumped at the chance.
“I think just for my perspective – I can’t speak for him – there’s a respect there, a respect for who he is and what he’s done and what he’s trying to do,” Woodson replied when asked about his relationship with the President. “That’s why I agreed to be part of the rally today. I believe in what he’s trying to do.”
While many professional athletes do their best to steer clear of political discussion, Woodson has done the opposite.
“I think the issues that surround us today, they affect everybody,” Woodson said. “I know a lot of people feel like NFL players should stay out of politics. I don’t consider myself a politician by any stretch, but I do pay attention to what’s going on and how it affects people.
“One thing I believe in, I believe in people, and I believe there a lot of people struggling. People just want a fair shake. And I believe the President is trying to give people that fair shake. That’s why I felt it was necessary to make my voice heard.”
After hearing Obama talk about his “middle-class agenda,” Woodson spoke about the financial aspects of the presidential race.
“I make good money. I play in the greatest league in the world there’s a lot of money in it. I don’t want to be an idiot about the money I make,” Woodson said. “I’m not going to be sitting here complaining. I think it’s important to make that point.
“You have a lot of people making a boatload of money who are complaining about money. They don’t have money problems. There’s a lot of people who do have money problems, and those are the people who should be complaining. Look at the East Coast right now. Those people need help.”
To that end, Woodson announced at the event that he is donating $100,000 to the American Red Cross to help with disaster relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. He said he saw on television the damage the storm inflicted on New Jersey and was moved to act. Later Thursday, the NFL and NFL Players Association announced a joint $1 million donation to help relief efforts.
“Earlier this week like everybody, we saw the President suspend his campaign, go back to Washington, try to make sure everybody knew it was a priority to reach out and help the people affected by the storm,” Woodson said. “Watching him and (New Jersey) Governor (Chris) Christie, I think it’s what people in this country want – both parties to work together to help as many people as they can.
“I saw them standing with people from the Red Cross, and we know what a great organization that is, and I said, ‘I would really like to make a significant donation to those efforts.’ It was great to have the platform to tell the people.”
Woodson said he has not been lobbying any of his teammates in the locker room to vote for Obama, although he did impress upon the cornerbacks and safeties the importance of voting.
“I just told my room, I told them, about a week ago, ‘Make sure they get out and vote,’” Woodson said. “It’s something that we – black people – fought long and hard for, so they should get out and vote. I know guys on this team, they have different opinions about who they like as far as the candidates. They make their own decisions. But it’s important to get out and vote.”
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