LeBron James’ More Than A Vote initiative seeks to create a new generation of activist athletes

first_imgIn addition to its athlete and entertainment celebrities who will serve as spokespeople and community conduits, MTAV has tapped political and electoral experts like Jocelyn Benson, the Michigan secretary of state, and Addisu Demissie, who ran Sen. Cory Booker’s presidential campaign. MTAV has already aligned partnerships with Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote to drum up voter registration, and Stacy Abrams’ Fair Fight Action. Some components will be driving registration; some will be educating voters on fair practices; some will be drawing attention to areas where MTAV identifies a voter suppression issue.One of the pressing examples MTAV collaborators identify now is in Kentucky, where the number of polling places has been dramatically reduced. While local officials have touted that in-person voting has been available for more than a week and mail-in ballots are coming in with record highs, others have been dismayed that Jefferson County, which encompasses Louisville and is one of the largest concentrations of black voters in the state, has just one in-person polling place. Overall, Kentucky has reduced its in-person polling places from roughly 3,700 to 200.“This is SYSTEMIC RACISM and OPPRESSION,” James tweeted over the weekend. “So angry man.”While MTAV hopes to be a relevant player on the national stage, there will be very localized concerns particularly in electoral battleground states and counties. One of the early initiatives the group hopes to press is in Miami-Dade County, where Udonis Haslem, one of James’ former Heat teammates, will campaign to help register and educate people with criminal convictions who regained the right to vote in 2018.People like Green or Jalen Rose could help in the battleground state of Michigan, or Diggins and Young in Georgia, which in many ways has become the main stage for national discussions about voter rights. Ogwumike anticipates doing work in her home state of Texas, which could be a battleground state this fall though it is traditionally conservative-leaning.Ogwumike said she wants to help amplify women voters as well, while welcoming in a coalition of people who worry about the same issues, including white allies.“I love being from Texas, and we say that everything is bigger, including our voice,” Ogwumike said. “We are really diverse, but because we’re so big, sometimes it takes us a little longer to progress.”“One thing I love about this is we’re all athletes who are focused on the same goal. We understand challenges and making sure we execute. … We want to better society through action, and we do that by voting,” Ogwumike said.Related Articles AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersLess than two weeks after it was first announced, More Than A Vote got its website up and running for Tuesday — an election day in New York, Virginia and Kentucky. While the nascent collaboration with James, Draymond Green, Stephen Jackson, Caron Butler, Skylar Diggins and Trae Young among others is still forming strategy, the intent is relatively clear: bring attention and change to voter suppression that has historically impugned on the political power of Black Americans.In the wake of the death of George Floyd, a frustrated James asked those in his circle for a way to channel his emotions into something to empower Black Americans. Those discussions grew into More Than a Vote, which the Lakers star and his advisors realized could leverage the relationships he has built through his media enterprise to shine a light on voting issues.An introductory video released Tuesday used images of historically vocal athletes like Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell and Jackie Robinson — James’ goal is to structure the next generation of those activist athletes.“We have incredible influence in our community. We need to use this moment to demand change,” James tweeted Tuesday morning. “I gotta be honest…I struggle with what to demand because so damn much needs to change. But I’m starting with our right to vote.”The process bears some resemblance to how James disrupted education reform by opening his own school — now voting rights is an issue he wishes to tackle in a different way than familiar “get out the vote” rallies. Trail Blazers beat Grizzlies in play-in, earn first-round series with the Lakers While More Than A Vote is not explicitly partisan, Black voters have traditionally cast in favor of Democratic presidential candidates, with 89 percent supporting Hillary Clinton in the last presidential election. James himself has tussled with President Donald Trump and his supporters, a clash that intensified after conservative host Laura Ingraham famously told him to “shut up and dribble.”But if James has made one thing clear, it is this: He won’t be silenced. And he hopes that attitude extends out to a political scale.“The easiest way to keep us from changing anything is to keep us from voting,” he said. As athletes, we stand on the shoulders of giants. We must continue their fight on behalf (of) our community.” Summer trips from her hometown of Houston down to Galveston were a staple of Chiney Ogwumike’s childhood. But when she and her father drove down this weekend, the L.A. Sparks star and ESPN commentator felt a surge of fresh meaning.Ogwumike has found familiar settings woven through the ground-shaking events of the present: George Floyd was a fellow Houston native who attended a high school that Ogwumike once played; his funeral was also held in her hometown; Floyd’s close friend Stephen Jackson who has helped mobilize protests is also a friend of hers from ESPN, from down the highway in Port Arthur.And Galveston, which Ogwumike remembers as a beach getaway, is also the place where the holiday Juneteenth was created when slaves were freed there in 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation and months after the end of the Civil War. It felt all the more poignant because Ogwumike now feels connected herself to these movements and this history through LeBron James’ voting rights organization, More Than A Vote.“There was a lot of opportunity to be introspective,” she said. “I’ve been called every racist term there is growing up in Texas, but I survived, and it made me who I am. It made the Black community who we are. We are survivors, and now we want to do more.” How athletes protesting the national anthem has evolved over 17 years center_img Lakers, Clippers schedules set for first round of NBA playoffs Lakers practice early hoping to answer all questions Trail Blazers, Grizzlies advance to NBA play-in game; Suns, Spurs see playoff dreams dashed Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more