LeBron James has taken multiple steps in 2020 to expand his influence far beyond the sports arena, garnering $100 million in seed money for his new media empire “designed to move the culture” and increasingly weighing in on the national socio-political scene, with the NBA following his lead in its newly announced social justice initiatives. Now his voting rights group is pushing for the political world to literally merge with the sports world, at least for a day, in an effort to combat “racist voter suppression.”
James’s “More Than A Vote” organization — a group of African-American athletes and artists working together in “combating systemic, racist voter suppression” — is pushing for sports arenas to be used as in-person balloting venues this year as part of its larger effort to maximize black voter turnout.
The group, formed this spring as the COVID-19 pandemic brought sports to a standstill, discussed the initiative with The Associated Press on Wednesday “after the Detroit Pistons became the second NBA franchise to announce plans to use its arena for voting later this year.”
“James and his voting rights group, formed this spring with other black athletes and entertainers, are joining with other professional basketball leaders and Michigan’s top elections official to push for mega voting sites to accommodate in-person balloting amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” AP reported.
“The idea, which comes after Kentucky used large facilities in its June 23 primary, is to use large spaces that allow for in-person voting while still enforcing social distancing guidelines,” AP explained. “It also underscores the attention on the mechanics of voting amid the pandemic, with the intensity already reflected in both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden warning that state and local officials have the power to ‘corrupt’ the election.”
Kentucky modeled the initiative in a June 23 primary, turning to larger venues better able to accommodate social distancing mandates. As AP noted, while it was deemed a success, some Democrats in the state initially criticized the idea, warning that plans to limit voting to the bigger arenas might “harm minority voters.” However, then the primary day came, “voting proceeded without the melee that some advocates had forecast.”
The narrative has now shifted. Rather than arenas being a voting “suppression” method, they are being endorsed by Democrats as a way to fight against suppression. “One of our greatest challenges in protecting voters’ access to democracy this November is identifying accessible locations where citizens can safely vote in person,” said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, AP reports.
James has become arguably the most influential sports figure in America, and he has not been idle while his league went on a months-long lockdown, taking major steps in “moving the culture” in March by launching his ambitious new “media empire,” SpringHill Co. after obtaining a $100 million investment.
The league that James has long dominated, meanwhile, is preparing to get back into action — and will do so by officially declaring its endorsement of Black Lives Matter, painting the name of the organization on both sides of the courts at the Walt Disney World arenas in which its season will resume in late July, and allowing players to put social justice-themed messages on their jerseys.
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