Two of the biggest names in sports are coming together to help fight one of this country’s biggest battles.
LeBron James announced on his Twitter Monday night that reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes will join James’ newfound nonprofit organization called “More than a Vote” to help fight against voter suppression.
While James has been a longtime advocate against racial oppression, Mahomes has recently started to become more vocal in calling out these injustices. He was an integral part of the NFL players’ social media video that forced the league to condemn racism and apologize for not listening to its players.
James started the political organization with his longtime friend and business partner Maverick Carter. The goal of the organization is to thwart systemic and racial voter suppression by “educating, energizing, and protecting our community in 2020.”
The issue is relevant today. In Kentucky, less than 200 voting places will be open for its primary on Tuesday. The state usually has 3,700 polling places open in a normal year. Last Thursday, a federal judge rejected an attempt to increase voting places in the state’s biggest counties.
As a result, the largest county in the state, Jefferson County, that happens to also have the highest black population will have only one polling location. This is also the same county where police killed Breonna Taylor while she was sleeping in her bed.
Voter suppression is nothing new in the United States, this country has stopped black people from voting since its inception. Laws like the Voting Rights Act of 1965 had to be signed to limit the disenfranchisement of black votes almost a century after the 15th amendment was supposed to give black people and other people of color the right to vote.
Now, decades after the Voting Rights Act was passed, some experts are saying that we are seeing a “tidal wave” of voter suppression amongst both black and young voters.
In response to Shelby County v. Holder, a 2013 Supreme Court decision that took away part of the Voting Rights Act, states have been strategic about implementing ways to limit the black vote.
Many states have made it harder for organizations to register people with criminal histories. Others have limited the voices of students at HBCUs and their surrounding communities due to gerrymandering and the elimination of voting sites on these campuses.
More polling site closures in mostly minority communities have led to longer wait times and a more cumbersome voting experience. This leads to many voters not placing a ballot because of time constraints.
Earlier this month, voters in Georgia experienced this first hand when they were forced to wait in lines for hours. In Dekalb County, voting was extended for more than two and a half hours. State voting officials in Georgia said the long wait times were a result of many former polling spots backing out due to the risks of COVID-19.
Yet, many of these long wait times were at precincts with a significant number of registered African-American voters.
Minority communities tend to get fewer poll workers and voting machines than majority-white communities, even if both communities reside in the same county.
In Georgia, many complained about the unprofessionalism at their polling places. Many spoke about multiple equipment malfunctions, and how poll workers who were not adequately trained.
In the 2016 presidential election, the black vote decreased dramatically. It was the first time the black vote had declined in a Presidential election in 20 years.
These statistics led many to try to reinforce stereotypes about black people and their reluctance to vote. It is a stereotype that is completely devoid of any historical or societal context.
The 2012 presidential election saw the highest percentage of black voters ever and in the 2018 midterm elections black turnout increased by 11 percentage points.
After nationwide protests over the deaths of George Floyd and Taylor have ignited a national conversation about white supremacy and systemic oppression, the empowerment of black voices has never been more at the forefront of the American mind.
This move from James, along with the help of Mahomes, will help foster an environment that can continue to let those voices be heard and break outdated stereotypes.
It’s a power play from the two of the most powerful athletes in sports.
And in time it will help empower an entire community.