NBA stadiums won't be empty for long. They won't be filled with cardboard cutouts either. They will be filled with voters.
Vote at the three point line
So far, at least twenty-one NBA teams have agreed to work with local elections officials to make their home venues and arenas hold September voter registration drives and serve as voting locations for the 2020 November election.
This decision came after NBA star players staged a strike during a night of playoff games following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed Black man, in Kenosha, WI. The NBA and its player association released a joint statement the following day announcing that their arenas will become voting centers this November:
In every city where the league franchise owns and controls the arena property, team governors will continue to work with local elections officials to convert the facility into a voting location for the 2020 general election to allow for a safe in-person voting option for communities vulnerable to COVID. If a deadline has passed, team governors will work with local elections officials to find another election-related use for the facility, including but not limited to voter registration and ballot receiving boards.
The influence of athletes
Athletes have a huge impact as millions of viewers watch a game. "Tuesday’s Game 3, drew an average of 4.65 million viewers to TNT, the NBA said on Thursday. A total 1.85 million men ages 18-49 watched LeBron James scored 36 points. Sunday’s game on ABC was the most viewed NBA game on TV since Christmas day, averaging 5.43 million viewers and a 2.9 rating." - Forbes
The Election Super Centers Project, a nonpartisan initiative to help as many teams as possible work with election officials to transform their arenas into massive voting centers on Election Day, hopes the project will create better access to voting for two to three million Americans this year and change attitudes toward voting. If successful this year, future elections could be carried out at these popular locations.
In states where the deadline to establish polling sites has already passed, the NBA teams said they were ready to establish voter registration and mail-in ballot drop-off locations at the arenas. At least 16 teams to date have offered their arenas, and several professional football and baseball teams are considering similar plans.
Sports arenas are ideal venues for election work, especially in a pandemic.
Besides the fact that the arenas are just hands-down cool looking and bring out excitement among entering, they:
- Allow for hundreds of polling booths while maintaining social distancing.
- Election observers can watch from the stands.
- Venues often have big parking structures that accommodate voters.
- Many arenas are already compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which can be a challenge when local election authorities are hunting for precinct locations.
NBA players encourage fans to vote
Athletes are ideal spokespeople to encourage fans to vote. LeBron James has formed a voting rights group with other stars, while Jamal Murray spoke eloquently about Black Lives Matter after shooting 50 points in a playoff game. They have the power to inspire thousands of Gen Z and millennial fans to vote.
LeBron James: a champ off the court too
"LeBron and his partners have formed an organization called “More Than A Vote” that will not only register black voters for the November election but also teach them how to counter voter suppression tactics. Plus, LeBron said he will use his social media presence, and the organization, to push back against restrictions on the right to vote (which often target minorities). Forming “More Than A Vote” is taking the next step for LeBron into using his celebrity to build something that can spearhead real change. He is leading a generation of younger athletes willing to take a stand in a way that is reminiscent of legendary black athletes of the 1960s and ’70s but went out of style in the ’80s and until recently.
“Yes, we want you to go out and vote, but we’re also going to give you the tutorial,” Mr. James said. “We’re going to give you the background of how to vote and what they’re trying to do, the other side, to stop you from voting.”
“I’m inspired by the likes of Muhammad Ali, I’m inspired by the Bill Russells and the Kareem Abdul-Jabbars, the Oscar Robertsons — those guys who stood when the times were even way worse than they are today,” Mr. James said. “Hopefully, someday down the line, people will recognize me not only for the way I approached the game of basketball, but the way I approached life as an African-American man.” - NY Times
|Atlanta Hawks||State Farm Arena||Voting Precinct|
|Brooklyn Nets||Barclays Center||Polling Site|
|Charlotte Hornets||Spectrum Center||Early Voting Site|
|Cleveland Cavaliers||RocketLife Mortgage Fieldhouse|
|Dallas Mavericks||American Airlines Center|
|Detroit Pistons||Henry Ford Performance Center*|
|Houston Rockets||Toyota Center|
|Golden State Warriors (GO WARRIORSSS!!!)||Kaiser Permanente Arena*|
|Indiana Pacers||Bankers Life Fieldhouse|
|LA Clippers||The Forum|
|Los Angeles Lakers||Staples Center|
|Milwaukee Bucks||Fiserv Forum|
|New York Knicks||Madison Square Garden|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||Chesapeake Arena|
|Orlando Magic||Amway Center|
|Philadelphia 76ers||Wells Fargo Center|
|Phoenix Suns||Veterans Memorial Coliseum|
|Sacramento Kings||Golden 1 Center|
|San Antonio Spurs||AT&T Center|
|Utah Jazz||Vivint Arena|
|Washington Wizards||Capital One Arena|
Takeaway: Encourage influencers to inspire their followers to vote.
Image: Nike 'JumpMan' (Michael Jordan) logo adapted for voting image.