Richard Nixon rode the pine for the junior varsity team at Fullerton Union High School and the second team for Whittier College in the early 1930s. The photo of No. 12 at right is identified online as being from Whittier College, but there is another shot of him in a better No. 23 uniform that is also said to be from his days with the Poets. As the Richard Nixon Foundation's online store announced it is selling NFL footballs signed by quarterback Kurt Warner for $125 ("get them before they're gone"), here's 12 Trickie Dickie pro football moments.
Nixon, then a California congressman, met George Allen, who'd just coached Whittier College to a championship, at a 1951 NCAA banquet. They remained friends for life, and when Allen coached the Los Angeles Rams in the mid-1960s, then-Republican presidential candidate Nixon attended a preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs at the Coliseum. Allen sent his son, the team's water boy, up the stands to take Nixon a roster card and Coke. As Jennifer Allen, the coach's daughter, would later write for ESPN's Page 2, her brother Bruce stuck around to talk game strategy with Nixon. When Chiefs QB Len Dawson lined up a few steps behind the center, Bruce Allen sprang up and shouted, "SHOTGUN!" This prompted Secret Service agents to spring into action before Nixon assured them, "Easy, this boy is talking football."
The first U.S. president attended a regular season NFL game on Nov. 16, 1969, when Nixon sat in the RFK Stadium stands for the Washington Redskins' 41-28 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Nixon made an unannounced visit to the Washington Redskins practice facility in Virginia on Nov. 23, 1970, two days after the RFK Stadium crowd booed the team on the way to a 13-0 loss to Dallas. "A great majority of people in this town back the team," Nixon told the players. "You have been good for this city."
President Nixon visited the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on July 30, 1971, to kick off the annual Enshrinement Festival. He took particular interest in a display on the evolution of football gear and uniforms. The Hall quickly removed the guest registry from that day for its archives.
The then-president fed his old friend George Allen what became known as "Nixon's Play" during the Washington Redskins' Dec. 26, 1971, NFC playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park. In the final minute of the first half, with the 'Skins on the 8-yard line and poised to score while already leading 10-3, the team ran a wide receiver reverse that resulted in a 13-yard loss. "That must have been a play Richard Nixon called in to George Allen," a TV broadcaster quipped. It changed the momentum of the game, which the Redskins lost, 24-20. A player in the post-game locker room claimed an "executive order" led to the play being called, something Allen never confirmed nor denied. Washington reporters would blame Nixon for the team's defeat, and columnist Art Buchwald would write, "If George Allen doesn't accept any more plays from Richard Nixon, he may go down in history as one of pro football's greatest coaches."
Nixon called Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula at 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 3, 1972, to suggest the Fish use a quick slant pass play in the upcoming Super Bowl against Dallas. The press later mis-reports that Nixon designed a play for Shula.
On the eighth play of that Super Bowl, Miami runs a quick slant pass that falls incomplete. Dallas winds up winning the Jan. 14, 1972, game, 24-3. Nixon calls Cowboys coach Tom Landry after the game to compare the team to the Green Bay Packer squads of the 1960s.
In a Dec. 3, 1972, Washington Post Style section interview, Redskins quarterback Billy Kilmer drunkenly claims that Nixon's obsession with the team is counterproductive and coach Allen should bar the president from getting near them.
During a Dec. 19, 1972, phone conversation recently discovered by the National Archives, President Nixon expressed his anger to Attorney General Richard G. Kleindienst over NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle's blackout policy, which did not allow for any game to be televised in the city where it was played, even if the game was sold out. Nixon told his AG that lifting the blackouts should be a major policy of his administration. "The folks should be able to see the goddamn games on television," Nixon fumed. He knew Rozelle feared Congress would demand lifting blackouts on all games, even regular-season match-ups, so Nixon proposed a compromise where he would veto any legislation ending regular season blackouts in exchange for all playoff games being televised. "If you make the move, for these playoff games, we will block any--any--legislation to stop anything else," Nixon told his attorney general to tell Rozelle. "I will fight it personally and veto any--any--legislation. You can tell him that I will veto it. And we'll sustain the veto. . . . Go all out on it and tell him he's got the president's personal commitment. I'm for pro football all the way, and I think it's not in pro football's interest to allow this to build up because before you know it, they'll have the damn Congress go all the way. We don't want Congress to go all the way." Rozelle declined.
Coach Allen visited the White House on Jan. 1, 1973, and Nixon promised to root for the Redskins in Super Bowl VII against Miami. He also gave Allen a pin with the presidential seal and a letter for Billy Kilmer's daughter Kathy, who suffered from cerebral palsy. No trick plays were apparently passed, however.
The Dolphins defeated the Redskins 14-7 on Jan. 14, 1973, to end the season with a perfect 17-0 record. Dolphin fans honked their car horns as they passed a residential compound in Key Biscayne where Nixon was staying. Nixon called to congratulate Shula the next day.
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Congress in 1973 passed a law banning the NFL from blacking out any game that was sold out at least 72 hours before kickoff. The law eventually expired, but the NFL has maintained that blackout policy, which current NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell still defends. Yes, folks are able to see the goddamn games on television.