NBA Strike Will be Meaningless if Players Don’t Start Voting

A reporter sits courtside in an empty arena during August’s NBA strike.

A reporter sits courtside in an empty arena during August’s NBA strike.
Photo: Getty

What’s next?

That’s the question so many have asked since the Milwaukee Bucks and the rest of the NBA caused a ripple effect that led to the entire sports world coming to a stop after the shooting of Jacob Blake.


It was something we’d never seen before, as the NBA’s restart was hanging in the balance. Conversations were had. Promises were made. And players warned of another work stoppage if they didn’t see progress.

Three weeks later, sports are back in full swing, as the NFL and certain sections of college football will kick off this weekend.


Three weeks later, we’ve also discovered what “next” actually looks like.


According to recent reports, only about 20 percent of eligible NBA players voted in the last election.

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Now, we don’t know if that was in connection to local, midterm, primary, or presidential balloting. The Census Bureau informs us that around 61 percent of citizens that could vote went to the polls in the 2016 presidential election, with 46 percent of those voters between 18 and 29 years old — a range that covers a large chunk of the NBA. The Pew Research Center reports that Black voter turnout dropped between the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections, by 7 percent, which may have been affected by Barack Obama not being on the ballot.

It would be inconsiderate to not mention the role of voter suppression and its effects on African-Americans for decades.


For instance, just this week, Mark Elliot of EconMobility — a nonprofit research organization that evaluates strategies to help low-income Americans — just discovered what Black America has known for a few years: that the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election was stolen from Stacey Abrams, a Black woman, by a white man, Brian Kemp.

Many Black journalists, like myself, wrote and spoke about this ad nauseam.


Last week, the NBA released a list of all the arenas and facilities that will be used as polling and voting centers in November. So far, the list includes 20 locations. The 21st was denied, as the Miami Heat released a statement about how unhappy they were about not being allowed to have their arena serve as a polling place.

Voter suppression is no joke.


So, what’s next?

Registering to vote, and following through in every election, at all levels of government, seems to be the only answer for NBA players, and for athletes in general.


This is bigger than Trump. And if you want to do something to stop the next Jacob Blake, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery from happening, you have to elect people that won’t look away when the police play target practice with Black people.

Because our lives are literally depending on it.

Because if that isn’t the goal, last month’s strike will always be remembered as a waste of time and energy.

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