Sam Ficarro

Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018

In the sports arena, John McCain also packed a punch

PHOENIX — Jerry Colangelo had many interactions with John McCain over the years as the senator helped to grow the Arizona sports landscape.

During the Suns’ heyday, McCain would be a frequent spectator at games.

“When I think of my seats at America West Arena, my memory is looking at his seats, which were courtside, opposite the corner of the Suns bench,” said sports executive Colangelo, who previously owned the Suns and Diamondbacks. “He was a fixture. When he was in town, he was there.”

McCain had a large impact on the Arizona sports community, but his reach in the sports arena was felt around the country. He died Saturday after a battle with brain cancer. He was 81.

McCain supported many Arizona sports but said his favorite moment was when the Arizona Diamondbacks won the 2001 World Series, where he famously threw out the first pitch before Game 7 against the New York Yankees.

“His love for sport translated to the Diamondbacks, and especially the World Series team,” Colangelo said. “He was a big part of it, because of the political impact of 9/11, of us playing New York after a traumatic event, he was with the team.

“He’s very much a part of our memory. He was for all of us. He truly represented the people.”

McCain threw his hat into the sports arena numerous times during his six-term stay in the U.S. Senate, passing legislation and holding sports leagues accountable.

The NFL was a recent target of McCain’s as he called out team owners and commissioner Roger Goodell.

In Nov. 2015, McCain and fellow Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake released a report stating that NFL owners were being paid to honor service members at its games.

“Americans across the country should be deeply disappointed that many of the ceremonies honoring troops at professional sporting events are not actually being conducted out of a sense of patriotism, but for the profit of in the forms of millions of dollars going from the Department of Defense to wealthy pro sports franchises,” McCain said in a press release.

McCain also called out the NFL for the league’s lack of participation in health research of head and brain injuries, specifically CTE.

Baseball was a love of McCain’s and as the head of the Senate Commerce Committee Chairman, he believed that steroids were taking over the game.

McCain threatened to introduce federal legislation if Major League Baseball didn’t create a stricter drug policy.

In response, Major League Baseball created its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program in 2006 to help clean up the sport.

During his time in the U.S. Naval Academy, McCain was a boxer and after he joining the Senate, McCain passed two pieces of legislation to protect a boxer’s welfare and to limit corruption in the sport.

Locally, McCain questioned the City of Glendale for voiding the lease with the Arizona Coyotes in June 2015, telling Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, “Don’t we owe more than that? Don’t we owe the fans who have loyally shown up at the arena, even though they had one of the worst records in the league and yet they were still loyal and showed up for the Coyotes? Don’t we owe them something?”

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