Dexter Manley and Obama
Why is Dexter Manley covering up Barack Obama's face? Well, read on.
There have been several sports-themed inaugural events in recent days, and there will be more. The first that I attended was Saturday night's Change the Game gala at Sports Club/LA on M Street. The guests included Vernon Davis, Shawne Merriman, Olympic silver medalist David Payne, the D.C. Divas, former Globetrotter Mike Wilson, Eric Snow and Mike James.
"It's hectic," said James, whose Wizards left town on Sunday in advance of the craziness. "I think a lot of people has come from around the country to share in this moment in history. It's gonna be dangerous, also, this week. Some people came here for Obama, and some people came here for the wrong reasons. [But] this is an incredible event. This is an incredible event, it really is."
To me, though, the highlight was seeing Manley, the Redskins legend and certified quote machine. I've previously said Manley would have been a major blog icon had he played in the Internet age, and I told him I loved reading his old quotes. He said he learned to be a quote machine from watching Muhammad Ali. He said Joe Gibbs never liked the chatter, but that Dexter always felt he could back it up with his play. Then we started talking about the inauguration.
"I'm so honored that I can take my seat, my front row seat for history," Dexter told me. "I drew a line in the sand and chose to live instead of die."
I asked what he thought about Obama's election; "I think it's a divine thing," he said. "I think it's divine. It's the way God wanted it. This is bigger than political stuff. As Sam Cooke said, 'Change is Gonna Come.' Change HAS come, but it's not gonna happen in one administration. It's gonna take many administrations. It's easy to put people in office, but it's difficult to change attitudes, and people here must change attitudes, because it's a new America."
Then we got to talking about politics. I probably should have known this, but I didn't: Manley was apparently something of a fixture in the Reagan Administration. He said he started this relationship sometime around 1983, and that he was a frequent guest on the South Lawn of the White House, schmoozing with everyone from George Schultz to Donald Regan to Michael Deaver.
"These people embraced me in this town," Dexter told me. "So I just felt I had a connection to them. And I would be the only black guy out there on the South Lawn on a Tuesday, and they embraced me, and they gave me benefits, benefits to people in my tax bracket. I just felt I was in that party, and I believed in the fundamental ideals for a while: small government, not big government."
Manley said he voted for George W. Bush twice, and in fact had never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate. Before Obama.
"All my friends and relatives were giving me a hard time when Obama was coming up," Dexter said. "I'm a Republican in my heart, but I've changed, because plenty of people I can identify with weren't progressing or getting better. That party was isolated, so I made a switch. I started believing in Obama. I read about him, and he believes in inclusion, and that's what America needs."
Dexter was actually a little reluctant to be quoted on politics, because he doesn't want it to affect the way people view him. He hasn't necessarily switched ideologically, but rather bought into the idea that Obama was necessary at this moment. So you're not allowed to hold this against him, wherever you are politically. And hence, the photo at the top of this entry. He's just not ready to commit all the way.
Before I left, I saw Shawne Merriman giving Dexter a hearty hug. They chatted for quite a while. "Apppreciate you, man, appreciate you," Merriman said to Manley.
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