Citing cancer experience, Ron Rivera advocates for Affordable Care Act

“We need to have the Affordable Care Act, whether in its current structure or it’s been changed or corrected or fixed or being added onto,” Rivera said. “We need to have something for the folks of the United States of America. For us not to have affordable, quality healthcare, and be the richest nation in the world, that’s kind of disappointing.”

On Monday, Rivera spoke at length about the importance of voting in Tuesday’s election, as well as democracy writ large. He said it’s been “really cool” to hear players discuss current affairs, and he noted that the spectrum of political ideologies in the locker room was “huge.” The enthusiasm for engagement was echoed in a Monday blog post by team president Jason Wright, who wrote the team believed in “big, meaningful and comprehensive community activities versus a collection of small one-off ventures.”

“For example, we will continue to have a robust set of activities around social justice because the players on our team and our employees care about those issues,” he added. “Voting is one component, but there is much more we can and will do.”

Rivera reiterated Monday the importance of participation in democracy, saying that the thing that bothers him most is when people don’t vote. In past years, Rivera has gotten up early to be one of the first people at the polls. He loves the “I voted” stickers. This year, he and his wife Stephanie and daughter Courtney filled out their ballots and put them in the mailbox. On Tuesday, he said he plans to turn the television on around 5 p.m. and click between local and national stations to monitor elections.

“People always ask me: ‘Who did you vote for?’” the coach said. “I always tell them, ‘I voted American.’ I believe I voted for who I believe is going to be the best person for us.”

After his cancer diagnosis in July, Rivera has become an advocate for improved healthcare. The coach has grown more outspoken over the last three months, and he’s sometimes gone as far to call for “universal” healthcare. The message on Monday was more tempered, framed around the ACA, but the root of his activism remains personal. Rivera, 58, is now one year older than his brother Mickey was when he died of pancreatic cancer in 2015.

This season, the coach has been limited at times by chemotherapy and other treatments. He’s thought about others in the same fight during his time in the hospital, those who might not have a five-year contract worth millions.

“After seeing what I went through, and knowing what the cost has to be, you worry about the folks that can’t afford what I had,” he said. “I almost don’t want to say it’s unfair, but it is. These folks deserve every opportunity [to receive quality healthcare]. It just kind of struck a chord with me.”

On Monday, the coach mentioned an upcoming fundraiser for Inova Health System, the Northern Virginia hospital company where he’s received treatment. He emphasized that he’d like to stay in the fight for healthcare whether directly or indirectly.

“Those are the kinds of things that, if that’s all I can do, I’m going to do it,” he said.

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