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It Took Until 2020 Before the NCAA Gave Athletes Election Day Off. This Is What Voter Suppression Looks Like

The NCAA is finally taking action to support more equitable voting for college students. Emphasis on finally.
The NCAA is finally taking action to support more equitable voting for college students. Emphasis on finally.
Photo: Getty


Victories should be celebrated unless they’re an example of an overdue act that had been preventing equality and fairness.

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Fifty-five years after the Voting Rights Act was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to prohibit racial discrimination in voting, Black people and people of color are still dealing with voter suppression.

The NCAA was a participant in that suppression until Wednesday, when they announced that they would be forcing every Division I program in the country to give college athletes Election Day off so that they could go vote. From now on, practices and competitions can’t happen on Election Day.

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Why it took so long for the organization that regulates student-athletes to make this happen at “institutions of higher learning” is a question that only has one answer.

Control.

Because this country has a very long history of trying to control “certain people” from not going to the polls. First, it was women. Then, it was Black people and other communities of color. And if you haven’t been paying attention, Black people and people of color are still dealing with obstacles when it comes to voting.

Case in point, Georgia.

The roughly 38,000 students that attend the University of Georgia were not going to be allowed to vote on campus at their student center this year “due to COVID-19.” However, the school has bent over backward making sure that crowds of up to 23,000 can show up to watch football games in the coming weeks.

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Money always trumps voting in a place like Athens.

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By Thursday, the school had reversed course and decided on an alternate location on campus where students can cast ballots.

It’s another example of why this decision from the NCAA was so needed, while also pointing to how infuriating it is, as it was long overdue.

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There’s a new documentary out called “All In: The Fight For Democracy” about former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, and how the 2018 election was stolen from her by her opponent, and current Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, through strategic and unethical voter suppression tactics.

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Kemp is native of Athens and a UGA alumnus.

See how this is all connected?

Former NBA player and Georgia Tech star Chris Bosh played a part in pushing the NCAA to do this, as he recently penned a letter detailing the importance of why college athletes needed the opportunity to take part in such an important civic responsibility.

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“The reality is, as a college athlete … you’re pretty much out of luck if you’re looking to exercise your right to vote or to engage in the electoral process on election day,” Bosh wrote.

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“You’re basically working two full-time jobs. And with respect to both of them, you’re being held to the highest of standards. There’s no margin for error. It’s not like you can just be like, “Hey Coach, you know what? I’d love to join you guys at this practice … but I gotta run out and vote for the county commissioner right now.”

In June, the Atlanta Hawks, another Georgia connection, became the first team in the NBA to receive approval to turn their home arena into a large voting station for upcoming elections. So far, 20 NBA arenas and facilities have been approved as polling and voting centers.

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A report from earlier this month disclosed that possibly only about 20 percent of eligible NBA players voted in the last election. Which means that after their recent strike, the onus is now on NBA players to get registered and hit the polls.

College athletes, you now share that onus. Because if you can fight for your rights to unionize, to make money off your name, image, and likeness, and put the pressure on the powers to be to let you play football during a global pandemic, then the least you can do is vote.

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Besides, the outcome of this election will affect your generation more than any other.

Saginaw Native. Morehouse Man. Syracuse (Newhouse) Alum. 2019 NABJ Award Winner. 2016 PABJ Journalist of the Year. I only eat my wings lemon-peppered. And I like brown liquor & brown women.

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