Because you have the Internet in some form or fashion, there’s about a 10 million percent chance you are aware of the fact that the world of sports is more eager than ever to get fans out to the polls this fall. If you name a sport, there’s a good chance you’ve seen athletes from that world encouraging people to register, become informed, and participate in the democratic process this year — the NFL has an ad campaign, NBA players championed this cause during their Bubble, WNBA players openly endorsed a primary opponent of one of the league’s outspoken owners who doubles as a United State Senator, etc.
This sentiment has applied to the world of soccer, too. Long a sport that has had players and clubs identify with various political movements, players in Major League Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League have spoken up in recent years about a myriad of subjects, whether it’s been members of the United States Women’s National Team vocally opposing the president, Black players in MLS forming a coalition earlier this designed to create systemic change on and off the pitch, or numerous other examples.
And of course, because we’re less than a month away from the 2020 general election, voting has been front of mind for a number of individuals. One such person is Jordan Harvey, the veteran left back who plies his trade for Los Angeles Football Club. An L.A. native, Harvey joined the team in 2017 after spending seven seasons up north as a member of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Leaving the country where he grew up was important for shaping how Harvey feels about politics today. While he’s voted in every presidential election from the time he turned 18 — he would have been in Canada for the 2012 and 2016 elections — his perspective on the importance of participating changed by spending time elsewhere.
“I feel like coming back from the States, you also get, like, a new sense of responsibility in terms of gaining knowledge on different topics like politics, or like voting, or like police reform, like we talked about, social injustice, that maybe in the past when I was younger, I didn’t feel that responsibility,” Harvey told Uproxx Sports over the phone. “But now, being older and coming back from the States, it’s definitely there.”
This has all come to a head as Harvey has become vocal about getting people to the polls, both in the team’s dressing room or in the community as a whole. While LAFC is trying to make this a reality by turning Banc of California Stadium into a vote center and by joining in on the Rally the Vote campaign, Harvey is turning to something with which he’s awfully comfortable: conversations.
It is not hard to see how a conversation about something like politics, a third rail that many try to avoid touching, can be easy with someone as affable as the MLS veteran. Harvey believes in “an ongoing conversation” with people about the importance of voting — and a number of other issues — in a way that is sincere and empathetic.
“I feel like it’s just an ongoing conversation, whether it be about voting, whether it be about social injustice in this country, it all is tied together, so I feel like that conversation is constantly being had,” Harvey says. “And it’s not about convincing, it’s about more so expressing your ideas, and then listening. I think that’s a really important trait that people are lacking right now, is just listening to one another and having empathy for where someone’s been and what they’ve been through. And then, on the back side of that, learn from it and try to help in any way.”
Internally, LAFC has made it a point to encourage these conversations among members of their team — Harvey praised the team’s ownership group and its manager, former USMNT gaffer Bob Bradley, for standing with players through thick and thin, like when the team opted to follow in the footsteps of the Milwaukee Bucks and not play a game in protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. LAFC, Harvey says, has a diverse fanbase in the midst of a diverse community, and views fostering a sense of inclusions as one of the club’s pillars.
The result of this has been practicing what the team preaches. As the veteran of a squad that has a number of players from diverse backgrounds, Harvey has taken pride in talking, listening, and getting to the heart of what people think. Understanding issues and perspectives gives him a window to inform, and as he tells it, his goal is not to convince someone to believe one thing or another — “maybe through your experiences,” he says, “they will understand and having a better understanding of an issue as a whole.”
Still, getting people compelled to vote isn’t unique to soccer. Voting initiatives have been taken on by individuals across the world of sports — heck, far beyond the world of sports, too — and everyone’s reason for championing this is different. For Harvey, it’s simply a matter of looking around, seeing what’s happening, and spurring ourselves to be part of creating a future that is better than the present.
“For me, I think it’s important because our society and our country is in a really rough patch, and I don’t use this analysis, ‘a losing streak,’ lightly, I just say it as a way of comparing it and putting it into sports terms,” Harvey says. “But right now, we need change, and we need to really look at ourselves and see what we can do differently. I don’t wanna say that you should vote one way or the other, but we need to get everyone involved, and I truly believe the more people are informed and involved, the better this country will be. And that, in a small scale, is what I believe I can help with in our locker room and then whatever LAFC is doing in the community, I’m there for them 100 percent.”
There is one inherent flaw in efforts to get people to vote in an election. Oftentimes, all of the focus is centered on one particular election, like when the presidency or a seat in the Senate is on the ballot. But true democracy can only occur when all of a nation’s citizens are both informed and engaged, heading to the polls for everything from the highest offices in the land to picking members of a school board. While there are some who believe that this November’s election could spur record turnout among Americans, what is to come of elections in 2021 or 2022? Politics do not stop, so the need for citizens to participate in politics does not stop.
Harvey, however, is optimistic. He believes that there is a chance, based on everything that has happened over the last four years, for Americans to become more active in our democracy than ever.
“I am a true believer of everything happens for a reason,” Harvey says. “And if we had to go through something like we have the last three years in order to create more awareness of issues that are going on in our country, then maybe this is what needed to happen to create change and to create interest in things like voting, or, man, a number of things that have gone on, especially this year, that will help in the future.”