John Riggins and Sandra Day O'Connor Photo Credit: USA Today (Riggins); Library of Congress (O'Connor)

NFL legend John Riggins remembered late Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Friday with a touching X/Twitter thread that prominently mentioned the infamous “international incident” involving the two.

O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, died Friday at age 93.

Riggins is best remembered for his Hall of Fame career that peaked in the early 1980s, when the running back won MVP honors in Washington’s Super Bowl XVII win to cap the 1982 season.

While Riggins built a great football legacy with more than 11,000 career yards, one incident near the end of his career would forever tie Riggins to O’Connor.

On Jan. 30, 1985, Riggins attended the Washington Press Club’s black-tie “Salute to Congress” event in Washington. He later said he’d had “a few beers,” a double scotch, wine and nothing to eat.

One thing led to another, and Riggins found himself drunk on an empty stomach. He approached O’Connor, put his arm around her husband, looked at her and said, “come on, loosen up, Sandy baby, you’re too tight.”

Riggins later went to sleep under a table.

The incident made Riggins the butt of jokes around the world, and still resonates almost 40 years later. Many football fans and political observers said they immediately thought about Riggins upon hearing of O’Connor’s passing.

Riggins mentioned the incident — how could he not? — in paying tribute to O’Connor on X/Twitter.

“I am so saddened by the passing of the Supreme Court’s First Lady,” Riggins wrote. “Back in ’85 our chance meeting at the White House Correspondents Dinner became an international event. And, over the years our paths would occasionally cross, which usually led to a memorable occasion.”


Riggins later sent flowers and an apology to O’Connor, and years later, she returned the favor, presenting him with flowers at an event. Riggins, 74, continued his thread Friday, mentioning his deep affection for the late justice, and concluding with a line that is enough to make anyone laugh, or cry, or both.

“Here’s to you Sandy, baby, you’ll always be the greatest!” Riggins wrote.

X/Twitter absolutely loved Riggins’ tribute.

[John Riggins; Photo Credit: USA Today (Riggins); Library of Congress (O’Connor)]

About Arthur Weinstein

Arthur spends his free time traveling around the U.S. to sporting events, state and national parks, and in search of great restaurants off the beaten path.