Hamilton Tiger-Cats receiver Luke Tasker drove two hours each way to his off-season home to Buffalo on Tuesday to vote in the U.S. presidential election.
He cast his ballot – reluctantly – for eventual winner Donald Trump, who won a stunning victory over Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton.
“Lower taxes, increased national security and military strength are important to me,” said Tasker, who grew up in Buffalo when his father Steve played for the NFL’s Bills. “It was difficult to support Hilary; the controversies surrounding her were really off-putting.
“Trump’s controversies are equally upsetting – I just wish we’d had two upstanding individuals.”
While Tasker was shocked by the results – like pretty much everyone else – Hamilton defensive back Dominique Ellis said Trump’s election just re-affirms what he knew all along.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Ellis, who voted for Clinton. “America is racist.”
Ellis grew up in North Carolina and Georgia – both states that went to Trump – and says his all-black high school football team required a police escort when they went to play an all-white school on the other side of town.
“I love that this shows what America truly is. As soon as Trump started saying those racist, ignorant things, you’d think people would be offended,” Ellis said. “But no, that’s how people truly feel. I’ve seen it my whole life. It tells you we haven’t progressed as much as we thought.”
Tasker, who supported a different candidate in the Republican primary, says he believes the poor state of the economy in working class areas of the so-called “rust belt” – places like Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania – played a significant role. Those places feel they’ve been left behind by the globalization touted by Clinton.
Upstate New York has struggled with similar issues, Tasker says.
“Growing up in Buffalo, I always had the sense that people felt things used to be better,” he said. “There’s been something of a revival recently but I think people rallied around the idea of a drastic change.”
Ellis and Tasker agreed trust was also an issue. The email scandal that plagued Clinton in the campaign’s waning days was symbolic of a larger concern over her authenticity while Trump – whose relationship with the facts was often farcical – was somehow capable of touching on a larger, more important truth.
“He’s facing lawsuits, he makes jokes about rape, he’s filed for bankruptcy, he was on reality TV and he’s the U.S. president? He’s an [expletive] joke,” Ellis said. “But at least he’s honest and people can deal with honesty, it gives them a choice. If people feel you’re lying, then they won’t support you, no matter who it is.”
While politics can be a sensitive subject – there were several players who didn’t want to discuss their views publicly – both players said the election wasn’t a common topic of conversation among their teammates, either before or after the fact. They’ve got the East Semi-Final coming up on Sunday.
“We don’t bring it up in the locker room,” said Ellis. “We’re talking about Edmonton, Edmonton, Edmonton.”
That was the perspective of head coach Kent Austin, who acknowledged voting but didn’t want to reveal his choice or discuss the results.
“I might have written in a candidate. I don’t have any thoughts on it… they call it gridlock for a reason,” Austin said. “We’re not going to get into a political discussion. We’re focussed on the Edmonton Eskimos.”
Tasker’s final comment on the issue echoed the sentiments of many on both sides of the border and from across the political spectrum.
“I’m just glad it’s over.”