News & Politics

NFL Legend John Madden Speaks Up for Diabetes Research

The football icon gave an emotional talk, urging for more federal support for diabetes research.

Joe Madden, his grandson Sam, and members of Congress hold a press conference about federal funding for diabetes research.

NFL legend John Madden paid a visit to Capitol Hill yesterday with his six-year-old grandson Sam, who is living with type-1 diabetes. Madden spoke at a press conference on behalf of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to urge the renewal of the Special Diabetes Program. If it isn’t renewed, federal support for diabetes research will be cut by 35 percent.

Coach Madden arrived at the charity’s 14th-and-K offices on—what else?—the Outback Steakhouse bus.

The press conference was packed with fans (one of Senator Mike Crapo’s female staffers asked for a photograph—and a hug) as well as a Hill who’s-who including Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus and Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health member Orrin Hatch—who cohosted the press conference—along with Senator Pete Domenici, House Energy and Commerce Committee member Joe Barton, and Senate Diabetes Caucus cochairs Susan Collins, Blanche Lincoln, and Mike Castle.

Madden, who choked up a few minutes into addressing the room, said, “I’m not a spokesperson—I’m just a grandfather.” He explained that Sam is one tough kid, as he must endure multiple finger pricks and insulin injections every day: “I’ve seen football players who see a little bit of blood and they pass out!”

Madden visited House speaker Nancy Pelosi before hopping back on the bus to prepare for his appearance at Sunday’s Ravens game.