ROUNDBALL DAILY

From the bullpen to the White House and from hoops to baseball; Mariano Rivera is the latest athlete to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom

By Joel Alderman

On the heels of Bob Cousy and Jerry West, President Trump switched sports, going from basketball to baseball for the latest recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Monday (Sept. 16th).

The relief pitcher, Mariano Rivera, who was the first unanimous choice for the Baseball Hall of Fame which he entered earlier this summer, now has a Presidential Medal of Freedom to go with the plaque on display at Cooperstown. While the president conferred the Medal on the Panama born “Sandman,” he referred to his “lethal” pitch.

“It’s from God, it’s from God,” he exclaimed.

Rivera is the fourth sports star out of five to receive the medal his year. Besides Cousy and West, the first went to Tiger Woods, a business associate and an occasional golfing partner of the president.

Last year, in November, Trump awarded his first Presidential Medal of Freedom to Babe Ruth – posthumously of course.

On this latest occasion, the sound of Metallica blasting “Enter Sandman” in the East Room was probably intended to make Rivera comfortable. It was his introduction at Yankee home games when he went from the bullpen to the mound.

The 49-year old Rivera previously this year had endorsed Trump who he said “was a friend of mine before he became president,” and that “I respect what he does, and I believe he’s doing the best for the United States of America.”

Rivera became a U.S. citizen in 2015.

Trump may be trying to counteract some negative incidents with athletes and teams, especially those of color. Two years ago he withdrew a White House invitation to the Golden State Warriors after Stephen Curry said he would not attend. LeBron James, then with the Cleveland Warriors, called Trump a “bum.”

No NBA team has gone to the White House since Trump became president.

His most contentious sports-related episode was when, in response to Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem, he stated that any such player should be called a “son of a bitch” and be fired.

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