What do the NBA and campaign finance reform have in common?
According to Adonal Foyle, everything.
Foyle, the well known 6’10”, 265-pound center for the Golden State Warriors, is quickly making a name for himself as one of the leading activists promoting campaign finance reform.
As part of his drive to build a movement centered around reform, he came to UC Berkeley Wednesday to ask students in Dr. Alan Ross’s Political Science 179 class to help him “take the money out of politics and put people back in.”
Foyle is the founder of Democracy Matters, a growing national organization that targets young people and helps them become involved in the movement to reform campaign spending. The organization has chapters across the nation, including a budding one at UC Berkeley.
Socially involved throughout his life, Foyle said the idea to promote campaign finance reform came after he started playing in the NBA. Finding himself surrounded by money, he asked himself, “How should I use my wealth?”
Sudden wealth and frustration with the political system started him thinking about the role money plays in politics. He decided to put his money where his mind was.
“When you see an injustice you can turn your back to it or you can try and do something about it,” said Foyle.
In an essay on his Web site, Foyle argues his point about campaign finance reform by comparing the process by which someone is drafted to the NBA to the election process.
“The only criterion for entrance [into the NBA] is athletic prowess. So long as he or she is deemed able to play at the highest level, they will get that chance,” he wrote.
“In very much the same way, politics should give all of our gifted and talented citizens an equal chance to compete to serve in political life… However, in politics today this is not the case. In the current system of campaign financing, having the desire or the ability to be a good political leader is not enough.
“This system is not fair because it requires so much money to run for office, thus giving an unfair advantage to wealthy candidates, or to people willing to sell themselves to wealthy donors.”
His basketball career has helped him promote his political involvement, but he admits political involvement has probably affected his NBA career, risking lost endorsements and facing the danger of losing popularity, he said.
But Foyle said he’s not worried about the impact political involvement has on his image. If anything he says it helps him perform his duties as a role model.
He said he targets young people because they’re still open to change and have the ability to act on it, and he took on campaign finance reform because he says it’s the basic change needed before any other social project can proceed.
Anne Hadreas, Campus Coordinator for the UC Berkeley Democracy Matters chapter, said she joined because she was working on several social justice issues but didn’t feel like she was accomplishing anything. Realizing the potential that campaign finance reform has to clear away some of the barriers that were blocking the projects she was involved in, she decided to throw her full efforts behind the movement.
“[Campaign finance reform] makes other reforms possible. Whether it be women’s issues, labor issues, environmental issues, etc.,” she said.
Along with other students in Democracy Matters, Hadreas has been working toward campaign finance reform on campus, focusing on student government laws that allow for candidates to spend up to $3,000 on their campaign.
“Who has an extra $3,000 dollars to spend?” asked fellow member Abe Gardner, who belongs to several other on-campus organizations concerned with electoral politics.
Both Hadreas and Gardner attended the reception after Foyle’s presentation to Ross’ class.
Rosssaid that, to him, the California recall election isn’t a right-wing conspiracy but a movement by people who were fed up with Gray Davis’ practice of “money for play,” or action based on money.
“Money in politics is the central issue,” said Ross. “I think that Gray Davis has really angered people through his fundraising efforts.”
Foyle, who is working towards his Masters degree in Sports Psychology, runs a tight schedule in order to juggle all his involvements, cutting back when basketball season starts. But he’s at it every chance he has.
He enjoys being active and thinks he lives a balanced life.
“It’s this constant juggling that is truly living,” he said.
The only thing he says that could make things better, “would be if [the Warriors] make the playoffs.”