At 48, NBA Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O’Neal said he has voted for the first time in his life.
“You know I always like being honest on my podcast. I’ve never voted before, America,” O’Neal said on his new podcast, “The Big Podcast with Shaq” on Wednesday. Though O’Neal did not specify whether he voted earlier this year in the primaries, he said he cast an early absentee ballot for president.
Though he said he has “no excuse” for not voting, he credits his change of heart to becoming more involved in helping local officials get elected this year: For instance, in Atlanta (where O’Neal has a house on the outskirts in McDonough, Georgia) he helped Fani Willis win the District Attorney’s race. And in Lafayette, Louisiana and Naples, Florida, he is involved in sheriff’s elections. (O’Neal has multiple properties in Florida and went to Louisiana State University.)
This summer, O’Neal also partnered with former first lady Michelle Obama on her voting initiative, When We All Vote.
“[N]ow I’m doing all these voting campaigns, and you know one thing I never like to do is be a hypocrite,” O’Neal said.
While realizing he may get “roasted” for the admission, he said it “feels good” to finally cast his vote.
During O’Neal’s nearly two decades playing professional basketball, he never spoke publically about political issues or endorsed a candidate. The former Los Angeles Lakers star said prior to this year, he also didn’t fully understand the electoral college system.
O’Neal, however, did not reveal who he voted for. In December, O’Neal told CNBC Make It that he didn’t plan to publically reveal that detail.
“I’m not saying I will never endorse anybody. I’m just not going to talk about it,” O’Neal said at the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year event in New York City.
O’Neal said giving opinions in general, especially via social media, can be dangerous for athletes. “My thought is that if you are not an expert on it, or if you haven’t been doing it, don’t do it,” he said.
Since retiring from the NBA in 2011, O’Neal has transformed himself into a savvy investor and businessman.
His growing empire includes restaurant franchises, fitness gyms, car washes, his own line of branded products and partnerships with Papa John’s and Carnival Cruise Line. In 2015, O’Neal sold the rights to his future endeavors to Authentic Brands Group (ABG), which acquired Sports Illustrated in May from Meredith Corporation.
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