Shaka Smart to host Obama VCU rally
Virginia Commonwealth University’s head basketball coach, Shaka Smart will host President Barack Obama kickoff rally at the Siegel Center on Saturday. Smart is one of the most well-known figures in Central Virginia and arguably may be the most popular man Richmond.
Smart has become a beloved Richmond figure, first for guiding the improbable run of the VCU Rams to the Final Four in 2011 and then by twice spurning offers from much bigger programs to remain the head coach at VCU.
The president’s love for college basketball is well-known. He often will attend college basketball games, has a brother-in-law who is a head coach and each year reveals his picks for the NCAA tournament on ESPN.
Smart, appears to be apolitical. He has no record of donating to any candidate on the Federal Election Commission web site and has not been outspoken in support of any candidate in the past. Turning down an invitation from the president is difficult to do, but make no mistake, Smart will be front and center at a bona fide political event. His presence would imply support for the president’s re-election bid.
Update: In April of 2011 Smart told the Richmond Times-Dispatch about his support of Obama in 2008. His wife Maya volunteered for the Obama campaign when they lived in Florida. Smart was asked because had VCU won the national championship, he’d get the chance to meet the president:
Smart was an assistant coach at Florida during the 2008 elections, and it’s probably no surprise whom he voted for given his background — a biracial kid who grew up in the Chicago area.
His wife, Maya, spent the year campaigning for Obama in Florida.
“I remember she had all the staffers and volunteers over to our house, and they’d be calling and preparing, and Maya kept saying that, ‘We’re going to win Florida,'” Smart said. “If you ask her today, she’s still the reason why.”
Shaka has never met the president, and was talking with his assistants the other day, reflecting that one of the best parts of winning would be the chance to meet him.
“That would be, obviously, a phenomenal thing,” Smart said.
See the full story on TimesDispatch.com
Smart also attended the White House Correspondents’ dinner, but did not get the chance to meet the president at that time. He will get that chance on Saturday.
In addition to Smart, the crowd will also hear from U.S. Senate Candidate and former Gov. Tim Kaine, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones and Newport News Rep. Bobby Scott.
Smart’s former player and Obama supporter Bradford Burgess talks about the rally and his coaches’ important role in the event.
Full release from VCU:
SMART SET TO SERVE AS HOST FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA’S RALLY
RICHMOND, Va. – Head Coach Shaka Smart has entered the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center many times to sold out crowds.
Saturday, he will be entering to another capacity crowd, however, this time it won’t be to coach a basketball game. Smart, who will be entering his fourth season, will serve as the host for a rally at the Siegel Center for President Barack Obama.
Obama will be on his first re-election campaign trip with the Siegel Center being his second stop after an appearance at Ohio State earlier on Saturday. Smart will welcome not only President Obama, but also the first lady, Michelle Obama, to the Siegel Center.
This will be the second time in the past two years that Smart and President Obama’s paths have crossed as the Rams head coach was guest at last year’s White House Correspondent’s dinner in Arlington.
Saturday’s rally at the Siegel Center is set to begin at 2 p.m.
Here is the release from the Obama campaign:
PRESS RELEASE: Shaka Smart, Bobby Scott among Speakers at President Obama’s Campaign Rally
Richmond, Va.—Today, the Obama campaign announced part of the pre-program at President Obama’s rally this Saturday at the Siegel Center in Richmond, including VCU basketball coach Shaka Smart, who will be hosting the event.
The pre-program participants, which will be released in full tomorrow, represent a mix of grassroots supporters and political leaders, and come from all corners of the commonwealth.
“President Obama has been fighting tirelessly to rebuild our economy and create an America where everyone who works hard and plays by the rules has a fair shot at success,” said Mayor Dwight Jones. “Virginians know the president has been getting the job done, from creating new jobs to keeping our nation safe, and I am looking forward to seeing thousands of his supporters gather here in Richmond this weekend showing their support.”
Pre-Program Participants Include:
• VCU Coach Shaka Smart
• Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones
• U.S. Congressman Bobby Scott
• Former Governor Tim Kaine
At Saturday’s rally, one of the first two public rallies of the campaign, the president will outline the choice Virginians will face in November: Are we going to move forward or go backward? Are we going to continue to turn the corner or turn back the clock and turn our backs on the middle class like the Republicans want to do.
The rally is open to the public and tickets are not required for admission. Supporters are strongly encouraged to RSVP at www.ofa.bo/rallyva and should plan to arrive early, as space is limited. Doors are currently scheduled to open at 1:45pm, although that time is subject to change.