Fueled by the current racial climate, NBA Player LeBron James and other prominent athletes and entertainers have seized the opportunity to form a new group designed to help get African American’s registered to vote and in the polls.
As we get closer to the Fall presidential election and we are still living in the fury of the racially motivated killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George FLoyd, the group’s formation couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks to James, who feels that he needed “to get out and do a little bit more,” African Americans have an additional resource to help protect their voting rights.
“Because of everything that’s going on, people are finally starting to listen to us — we feel like we’re finally getting a foot in the door,” James, 35, said in a phone interview with the New York Post on Wednesday. “How long is up to us. We don’t know. But we feel like we’re getting some ears and some attention, and this is the time for us to finally make a difference.”
More Than A Vote will include #James, #TraeYoung, #SkylarDigginsSmith, and #JalenRose. According to James, it will be different from the usual celebrity-filled voter movements we’ve had in the past. This suggests that James, who currently speaks out on his social media platform and appeared at a 2016 rally for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, will become more active in other ways.
The NBA legend’s high-profile status is something he plans on utilizing to help fight voter suppression and speak out against those who attempt to restrict franchises among racial minorities. He has over 136 million followers between his social media pages, which is close to the number of 2016 presidential election voters total.
“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.”
James said long ago that he believes his greatest achievements would happen off the court. James has significantly reinvested back into his home state of Ohio. Now, his new venture into electoral politics looks like he has successfully predicted and cemented his off-court legacy.
“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.” Inspired by past athletes that spoke out about racial equality and the Vietnam War, the Los Angeles Lakers star would like to use his platform for social justice too.
Thanks to the era of social media, the new group’s efforts will have the resources to advocate worldwide and leave an impactful message to those the system counts on.
“This group of athletes wants to feel empowered in every single way,” Maverick Carter, a long time friend, and business partner with James in his entertainment media production company, told the Post. More than a Vote will give them this opportunity.
Michigan secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, said that “trusted voices” like Mr. James’s can help people that are skeptical of news and politics, which is another goal of the group; to end the apathy people feel towards voting. This was evident in the 2016 election, which showed a decline among young black voters.
“We’re not letting that happen again,” said Jalen Rose, who called Floyd’s death “perhaps the most galvanizing killing since the lynching of Emmett Till.”
“What we’re seeing in Michigan is there’s a heightened need to inform citizens how to vote in this coronavirus era,” said Ms. Benson, a Democrat who is helping advise the group. “We’ve got to go beyond registering people to vote and talking about the importance of voting to actively combating voter suppression.”
What is notable is that the organization will be listed as nonprofit and will not advocate for a specific candidate. To help make their mark and meet goals, it was beneficial that the new group team up with When We All Vote and Fair Fight; organizations already active in the voter movement. Although there are still things to figure out, the willingness of others who have listened and agreed to help James makes him hopeful.
“I’m sick of seeing unarmed black men killed by the police,” said Ms. Diggins-Smith, a guard for the Phoenix Mercury, adding that she wanted “to put some action behind my frustrations, behind my anger, behind the helplessness that I’ve been feeling.”
Among those already committed include Draymond Green, Udonis Haslem, Alvin Kamara, and comedian Kevin Hart, and possibly several musicians. James and Mr. Carter will initially fund the organization.
“There’s a lot of people that want change in the black community,” Mr. James said, “if you actually don’t put in the work or if you don’t have the mindset, there’s never going to be change.”
James has not met with running Democratic candidate Joe Biden but is not opposed to it. “We’ll see if we can help a candidate here and there,” he said.