With the 2020 presidential election less than a month away, the question of voter turnout is omnipresent. Public figures writ large have utilized their outreach to encourage voter participation — a key group being professional American sports leagues. Teams across almost every league are transforming their stadiums into election super centers in an effort to facilitate voting and increase voter turnout.
A year that kicked off with an unforeseen pandemic and powerful racial justice movements will soon be topped off with a historic presidential election on Nov. 3. This highly anticipated election has kept American citizens glued to their phones and TV screens, especially with the recent presidential debate on Sept. 29. The election will boil down to voter turnout.
A significant issue underlying recent elections has been whether or not citizens are taking advantage of their right to vote. In 2016, just 61.4% of the eligible voting population voted. Many people believe that if there was a higher voter turnout, the results of the 2016 election would have influenced the Electoral College vote.
Stadiums, it turns out, allow for social distancing even with the long lines and wait times that usually accompany Election Day. This super-center movement is led by the Election Super Centers Project, whose goal is to help sports organizations work with election officials to open venues, such as stadiums, as polling sites. By partnering with as many sports teams as possible, the project is encouraging as many voters as possible to exercise their right to vote.
Before the emergence of the Election Super Centers Project, however, players were already ensuring their stadiums were converted. Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, through his new voting organization More Than a Vote, announced in June the Detroit Pistons and the Atlanta Hawks would open their stadiums for polling.
The Atlanta Hawks’ State Farm Arena is Georgia’s largest voting center. Atlanta is a city that experienced weeks of protests following the deaths of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks, as well as institutional voter suppression during the 2018 gubernatorial election. Such occurrences struck a particular chord with the Hawks organization, especially with head coach Lloyd Pierce. Pierce, the chair of the NBA’s racial justice committee, is calling upon citizens to vote to hopefully enact change that will improve the racial inequities in the U.S.
“I was born a Black man, and I know one day I’ll die a Black man,” Pierce said. “But I don’t want to die because I’m a Black man.”
There will also be free parking at the stadium throughout the voting period.
The Election Super Centers Project has solicited numerous other teams to offer their stadiums as polling sites, including the Los Angeles Clippers, Washington Wizards, Golden State Warriors and several other franchises across various other leagues.
While being unable to host fans for games, participating franchises are still eager to host voters. Hawks CEO Steve Koonin tweeted, “Let your voice be heard … get out to vote. We look forward to welcoming Fulton County voters to State Farm Arena.” While the creation of such super centers reflects the power and influence of athletes on political society, only time will show the effect these super centers will have on actual voter participation.
Let your voice be heard..get out to vote. We look forward to welcoming Fulton County voters to State Farm Arena https://t.co/1loKZE94RM
— Steve Koonin (@SteveKoonin) June 29, 2020