NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal announced plans to run for sheriff on Friday, although it is unclear where in the country he will do so. The bombshell came after he denied plans to run for mayor of Atlanta, Ga.
“Mayor no, I would never run for mayor,” O’Neal told 11Alive News. But then the basketball start dropped a bombshell. “In 2020, I plan on running for sheriff.”
The NBA star explained his goal — to support the public image of police. “This is not about politics. This is about bringing people closer together,” Shaq said. “You know, when I was coming up, people love [sic] and respected the police, the deputies. And, I want to be the one to bring that back, especially in the community I serve.”
Shaq added that he would do well, because he can relate to everyone. “I can put on a suit and have a conversation with Bill Gates. I can go in the hood and talk to the homies, and talk to the children.”
As a prominent black celebrity, O’Neal can speak to the racial tensions inspiring the Black Lives Matter movement and defend police against the accusations that law enforcement across America is racist.
In an interview with Esquire in November, Shaq put forth his answer on the police-race tension in America. “As an African-American male, I understand. I’ve been through it. As a police officer, I understand. I’ve been through it. I understand people. I listen. We’re not put on this Earth to change people’s minds—we just have to listen to them,” he said.
The NBA star explained his respect for the police, and why he is not afraid of traffic stops.
When I get stopped by the cops, I’m not worried. And it has nothing to do with being Shaq. You know why? I show respect. “Yes, sir. No, sir.” That’s how I was taught. I was raised by a drill sergeant, and that’s who I am. Doesn’t matter if it’s a black guy, white guy, whatever. I’m not going to make it uncomfortable for you, because I don’t want it uncomfortable for me. There’s not going to be any talking back—none of that.
While Shaq has been sworn in as an honorary deputy in Clayton County, he has little real law enforcement experience. But as sheriff, O’Neal said he would make up for that lack of experience with a solid team. “I know how to run a team. My style is going to be to surround myself with guys who have been doing it way longer than I’ve been doing it. Surround myself with smarter people.”
In the age of Trump, this kind of humility is refreshing. While O’Neal would likely win an election due to star power — like Trump — his willingness to listen and his plan to rely on good counsel might actually make him a good sheriff.
The real question is where. He could run for sheriff in Henry County, where he is a resident and where the incumbent is up for re-election in 2020. But he could also run in Florida, as he has residency there as well. Furthermore, 2020 is still three years away — he could move to a specific place and establish residency to run there.
“I haven’t made my mind up yet,” Shaq said.
According to WXIA’s Julie Wolfe, the NBA star is very popular in the Atlanta area, and not just because of his basketball track record. He bought the struggling 50-year-old Krispy Kreme Doughnuts on Ponce de Leon, keeping it in business. When a teen live-streamed an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound, Shaq stepped up to pay funeral expenses.
When a 5-year-old girl was mauled by a dog while headed to a bus stop, the NBA star visited her in the hospital and helped the family make ends meet.
At the end of his interview with 11Alive News, O’Neal pointed at the camera, and in a deep-voiced vibrato, declared, “Shaq for Sheriff! Back to the old school.”
If his comments about Black Lives Matter are any indication, O’Neal’s candidacy for sheriff would be a large step forward for racial reconciliation following a few tense years of protests and violent riots. A prominent black star supporting dialogue between activists and police could represent a victory for peace on the streets.