America is at a watershed moment in the continuing fight against systemic oppression, as people around the country continue to protest the type of racial profiling and excessive force that led to the death of 46-year-old George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police last month.
Athletes from all major sports have added their voices to the cause, with many leveraging both their wealth and their considerable influence to enact meaningful change. With the November presidential election fast approaching, much emphasis has been put toward galvanizing the Democratic base and mobilizing voters to oust Donald Trump from the White House.
LeBron James tweeted this week about what he sees as the structural racism in the American voting process, and on Wednesday, he took that a step further with the announcement that he and other athletes are forming a group designed to protect the voting rights of African Americans.
The organization, called More Than a Vote, will partly be aimed at inspiring African-Americans to register and to cast a ballot in November. But as the name of the group suggests, Mr. James and other current and former basketball stars — including Trae Young, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Jalen Rose — will go well beyond traditional celebrity get-out-the-vote efforts.
“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.”
Black Americans have historically been one of the most disenfranchised groups of voters in this country, often the target of legislation specifically designed to suppress their turnout. According to the ACLU, 16 states have introduced voter suppression laws since 2011, ones that, among other things, reduce or eliminate early voting, Election Day registration, voter registration drives, and mail-in ballots.
At least nine states have a so-called “use it or lose it” law that makes it legal to purge votes if those voters haven’t participated in recent elections. In Georgia in 2018, for instance, more than 50,000 voters were eliminated for that very reason, 70 percent of which were African Americans, according to the APM reports.
Voter suppression also takes place in subtler, more insidious ways. In the 2016 elections, researchers found that voters in predominately black neighborhoods were 74 percent more likely than whites to stand in line for more than a half hour to cast their ballot, and multiple research studies have shown that voter ID laws in more than a dozen states disproportionately affect minorities.