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Former basketball player Royce White seeks to challenge Ilhan Omar for Congress as a Republican

First rising to national prominence as an outspoken mental health advocate during his basketball career, White's activism has ranged from leading protests against police brutality to taking up anti-vaccination and other conservative causes.

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Former University of Minnesota and NBA player Royce White announced his candidacy Tuesday for the Fifth Congressional District outside the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022.
Star Tribune / TNS
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Royce White's campaign to win back DFL U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar's Fifth Congressional District for the GOP for the first time in more than half a century began Tuesday standing alone in the biting cold of a snowstorm outside the Minneapolis Federal Reserve.

First rising to national prominence as an outspoken mental health advocate during his basketball career, White's activism has ranged from leading protests against police brutality to taking up anti-vaccination and other conservative causes.

Now, after becoming a regular guest on ex-Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon's online shows, White is waging what he calls a "huge battle right now ... versus a globalist agenda" by seeking to unseat one of Republicans' favorite targets of ire.

"This district has been voting blue for a long time and I hope that I can shake that up," White said in an interview Tuesday. "I hope that I can make people see that for a long time they voted against their own interests."

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Rep. Ilhan Omar

Bannon's endorsement represents the first words that appear in the two-minute announcement video White shared on social media earlier Tuesday. In the video, White said that his problem with Omar "isn't that she's not an American or that she's not from Minnesota."

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"She's in on it, she's a globalist," said the Minneapolis native in the video. "She's a puppet for the establishment. I'm here to sound the alarm."

White played college basketball for the University of Minnesota before transferring to Iowa State, where he achieved more success. He was drafted by the NBA's Houston Rockets in 2012 but played little in the NBA. White openly discussed his experiences with anxiety disorder and became an outspoken critic of the NBA's approach to mental health.

White, who has also competed in mixed martial arts, has been a fixture during multiple protests that followed the police killings of George Floyd and Daunte Wright. During the April 2021 uprising outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department following Wright's death, White urged the crowd to storm a fence ringing the department's barrier.

He said Tuesday that government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic "and the overall direction of the country," coupled with encouragement from a series of mentors he would not list, helped him decide to seek a run for office.

Other candidates seeking the Republican endorsement to challenge two-term incumbent Omar this year include Cicely Davis and Shukri Abdullahi Abdirahman. Omar formally launched her re-election campaign last month.

According to public court records, White is the subject of multiple pending civil court proceedings, including six active judgments against him that total nearly $178,000. The cases include failure to pay child support and a recently settled eviction case. While a freshman at the University of Minnesota in 2009, White pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and theft during a shoplifting incident and scuffle with a guard at the Mall of America

©2022 StarTribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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