Regardless of your political affiliation or leaning, the NBA is doing its part to help folks get out and vote by ensuring there will be no games played on Election day (November 8) this year.
In recent years, the NBA and many of its players have taken a more active role when it comes to voting literacy.
We have seen T-shirts encouraging fans to vote, players speaking out about its importance, and the league doing its part to encourage its teams when possible, to open their doors as potential polling locations.
But that’s not enough; not when you have the kind of platform the league has with such a large swath of potential voters, many of whom are people of color, in need of a little nudge in order to combat potential voter apathy.
Since the killing of George Floyd in 2020 and the subsequent mile-markers on the road towards social justice that have opened afterward, the NBA has embraced and in many ways, flexed its power and purpose in bringing about change when it comes to some of the societal ills that for far too long, have plagued this country.
But it is through civic engagement that the league has seemingly found its sweet spot when it comes to raising awareness, and doing so void of having a political slant attached with their efforts.
That’s why the league’s decision to not play games on Election day (November 8) is such an important one for all who care about the electoral process.
By not having games played on that day, it creates one less hurdle needing to be cleared for all potential voters who are fans of the NBA who also want to participate in the midterm elections.
“It’s unusual. We don’t usually change the schedule for an external event,” James Cadogan, the executive director of the NBA’s social justice coalition, told NBC. “But voting and Election Day are obviously unique and incredibly important to our democracy.”
In addition to not having games on that day, the league is also encouraging all its teams to share information, such as important registration deadlines, in the weeks leading up to Election Day.
“The scheduling decision came out of the NBA family’s focus on promoting nonpartisan civic engagement and encouraging fans to make a plan to vote during midterm elections,” the league said in a statement.
This is especially problematic in Black and Brown communities where the voting numbers have been historically underwhelming in the general election for president, and even worse during midterm elections.
But recent times have shown increased engagement by younger voters, one of the NBA’s key demographic groups.
The last midterm election was in 2018, which saw a significant spike from the 18-to-29-year-old demographic. After only 20 percent voted in the 2014 midterm elections, that number was up to 36 percent in 2018—a 79 percent increase.
Lending a hand to increase civic engagement is not only the right thing to do if you’re the NBA, but it just makes sense from a purely business standpoint when you consider how sizable a chunk of the NBA’s fanbase resides in that 18-to-29-year-old demographic.
Of course, there will be those who believe the NBA should stay out of the voting process altogether, and just “dribble and shut up” when it comes to anything that doesn’t involve, well, dribbling.
But as we all saw with the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream being the spark that catapulted a little-known political outsider, Rev. Raphael Warnock, to become the first Black senator in Georgia history, professional athletes are not afraid to wield their power to make a difference in politics.
And for the NBA, the most diverse of all the professional leagues in North America, recognizing the need to create an easier path for voters makes a lot of sense.
Historically, midterm elections have struggled to bring out waves of voters.
This is especially true for those in Black and Brown communities who represent a significantly larger share of the NBA’s fan base compared to other professional leagues.
According to Statista.com, 27 percent of NBA fans are Black, which makes its fan base the largest, percentage-wise, among the four major professional sports leagues in North America.
Statista.com also found that 23 percent of NBA fans are Latinx, and that too ranks at the top of fan bases, percentage-wise, among the top four major North American pro leagues.
As we get closer to Election night and the NBA continues to do its part to put the word out to vote, the league and its players remind us all that power moves aren’t limited to what they do on the court.