As the Nov. 3 date of the United States Presidential Election quickly approaches, we're reminded of the months-long initiatives from the NBA with the aim of encouraging U.S. citizens to exercise their right to vote.
In addition to the league and its players' association promoting the action of registering and going to vote, a number of players have also been active voices in voting initiatives, including Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, who recently discussed his work alongside other athletes within the More Than a Vote collective in an interview with Astead W. Herndon of the New York Times.
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For a greater understanding of the group's mission, its official website features an open letter which states:
"We are a coalition of Black athletes and artists who came together amid the protest fuelled by the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police. We are focused on systemic, targeted voter suppression in our community and have a specific mission: educate, energize and protect Black voters. We are driven by a shared understanding that our influence and prominence, particularly among young people, is a responsibility to continue the tradition of Black athletes working together to fight for justice and equality."
In the interview, James, who is unequivocally the face of the NBA, outlined the ways in which he has been able to use his platform to help combat misinformation that reaches Black voters, saying: "It's simple. We believe that Black people, our community, we've been pushed away from our civic duty. We've been fed misinformation for many years.
"And I'm in a position where I can educate people and, through More Than a Vote, educate people on how important this movement is, and how important their civic duty is. Not only to empower themselves, but to give back to their community as well."
As part of its efforts, More Than a Vote has worked to provide discounted rides for voters to travel to polling sites, encouraged over 40,000 people to volunteer as poll workers and helped formerly-incarcerated people regain their voting rights. In taking steps beyond simply voting, the group's name takes on a literal meaning in more ways than one, as James added that there is an additional mission to emphasize to Black people that their vote does count, adding that "a lot of us just thought our vote doesn't count: That's what they've been taught, that's how they've been educated, that how they've always felt.
"They've felt kind of institutionalized. But I want to give them the right information, I want them to know how important they can be."
As explained to Wesley, James sees this current election cycle as part of a bigger push for change in issues affecting the Black community, issues that, as he explains, begin with, but are not limited to, voting: "We've been talking about voter suppression, we've been talking about police brutality, systemic racism.
"We've had so many things going on, and voter suppression in our communities happens to be at the forefront. So that's something we wanted to educate our people on."
While James has been in the spotlight for nearly 20 years now, his voice in activism has grown exponentially over the past several years, something he attributes to his growth and maturation during his time in the league, saying that "it's about growth. I've grown over the course of my career. I've grown over the course of being an 18-year-old kid that came into the league in 2003, to a 35-year-old man that's a husband and a father of three kids.
"I've grown to know who I am and what I stand for. And it's not just about me, it's about my people. That's why I'm leading the charge."
Find James' full interview with the New York Times here.
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