The friendship between Donald Trump and Mariano Rivera is one that caught sports fans by surprise.
The relationship isn’t anything new, though. Rivera, the Yankees legend and Hall of Fame closer, has been friends with Trump, the businessman-turned-President who always has something to say on sports, dating back to their years in New York.
Let’s examine how the New York Yankees great formed a relationship with the President.
Mariano Rivera is a New York Yankees legend
Mariano Rivera is the greatest reliever in baseball history. The traditional stats, from a 2.21 ERA to an MLB-record 652 saves, to him earning 100% of the Hall of Fame votes in 2019 prove that fact.
No other player, not even Derek Jeter, earned the full 100% from Hall of Fame voters. After he struggled as a starter in 1995, Rivera moved to the bullpen in 1996 and the rest is history.
With his trademark cutter, Rivera earned 13 All-Star nods, won five World Series titles, and had five top-5 finishes in the AL Cy Young Award.
Rivera had a 0.70 ERA in 96 postseason games and saved 42 of them. His one playoff loss came in the 2001 World Series, when he blew Game 7 against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Rivera has a very close relationship with Donald Trump
Mariano Rivera met thousands of celebrities when he played for the Yankees. Donald Trump lived in New York and often attended Yankees games.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise, then, that the two eventually formed a bond. That relationship moved to the next level when Trump officially took office in January 2017.
Rivera served on Trump’s Opioid Drug Abuse Commission. He was also the co-chair of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition.
In a 2019 interview with Fox and Friends, Rivera reflected on his friendship with Trump.
“He was a friend of mine before he became president. So because he’s president, I will turn my back on him? No. … I respect him. I respect what he does, and I believe he’s doing the best for the United States of America.”
Trump tweeted his congratulations when Rivera became the first unanimous Hall of Famer in January 2019.
Rivera appeared at the White House with Trump in July, hours before the Yankees opened the truncated 2020 season at the Nationals. Rivera and Trump played catch with Little Leaguers after Trump’s briefing ended.
Mariano Rivera received a prestigious honor from Trump
Born in Panama, Mariano Rivera became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2015. Four years later, Rivera received the Presidental Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.
According to CNN, Trump praised Rivera, the seventh professional athlete who Trump presented the medal with, for his stats and faith.
“Mariano Rivera has made extraordinary contributions to American sports, culture and society. He is the most dominant relief pitcher in the history of baseball. And more than that, he has lived the American dream and shines as an example of American greatness for all to see.”
Rivera called the award “an honor and a privilege.”
What other professional athletes support Donald Trump?
Mariano Rivera isn’t the only professional athlete who either has a longstanding relationship with Donald Trump or who has endorsed the President.
Tom Brady and Tiger Woods have each been friends with Trump since before he took office.
San Francisco 49ers star defensive end Nick Bosa has supported Trump for years. Trump praised Bosa when the 49ers used the second overall pick on him in the 2019 NFL draft.
Ex-MLB stars Aubrey Huff and Curt Schilling, football coach-turned-Republican U.S. Senate nominee Tommy Tuberville, and boxer Mike Tyson have all also endorsed Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign.