Tim Folliard – Sports Editor
This Presidential Election has grabbed almost every part of American life and sports are included in that mix. Sports organizations and athletes are using their platform to promote voting in this election. According to the United States Elections Project, only 59.2% of the Voting Eligible Population voted in 2016.
Over 2,350 NFL players participated in voter education sessions and 16 teams in the NFL are converting their facilities into election sites. The NFL has partnered with voter registration organizations: I am a Voter, RISE to Vote and Rock the Vote. These are nonprofit and nonpartisan organizations.
Stars such as Patrick Mahomes and Russel WIlson have been spokespersons for the NFL in this campaign. When Chicago Bears players arrived at training camp in August, they had the opportunity to register to vote. This was done through the Lake County Clerk’s office.
Bears’ director of player engagement Lamar Campbell said, “It’s important to have your voice heard, not only nationally but in your local community as well…It’s not just about being a voter; it’s being an educated voter.”
The NBA and WNBA have also been very vocal in their encouragement of voting. Their facilities are also being used for voting. Madison Square Garden is being used as a polling center for 60,000 eligible voters in New York CIty.
The president of the NBA Players Association, Chris Paul said “I’m proud to announce that we have over 90 percent of our league registered to vote. 15 teams are 100 percent registered, and the jobs that guys have been doing just to be a little bit more educated on the situation and getting people out, recruiting poll workers and things like that.”
In an interview with the New York Times, Lebron James was asked what is most important to him on Election Day? He responded by saying, “I define success by our people going out and voting. You know, there’s so many stats out there, you can see it every time. Who didn’t vote? What counties didn’t vote? What communities didn’t vote? And a lot of that has had to do with our Black people. So, hopefully, we can get them out and educated and let them understand how important this moment is.”
Some have argued that sports becoming political is not a good thing. The rise of sports working with nonprofit organizations have led to a decrease in viewers.
The NBA finals had 48% less viewers from last year and the NFL’s viewership is down 13% this year. A likely reason for this is that the NBA finals was played in October as opposed to when it is typically played in June. Another reason could be more people are closely following the election at the expense of following sports.
Regardless of viewership numbers, sports organizations will continue to allow athletes to exercise their right of freedom of speech. Sports organizations will also remain active in partnering with nonprofit organizations that serve the communities they represent