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NBA To Use Arenas For Polling Places In Deal To End Strike

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“We’re human, we have real feelings and I’m glad that we got a chance to get in a room and talk with one another and not just cross paths and say good luck in your game today.”

When the Milwaukee Bucks decided they wouldn’t play their playoff game against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, the basketball players tipped the first domino in a larger movement. While eight professional sports teams had already agreed to covert arenas to voting “super centers,” the NBA strike forced the league to accelerate and augment those plans. On Friday, the NBA announced it will use arenas for polling places and create a social justice commission to put its weight behind a reignited Black Lives Matter movement.

The deal, reached Thursday, is the result of a meeting between the National Basketball Association, team officials, and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), NPR reported. 

“We had a candid, impassioned, and productive conversation yesterday between NBA players, coaches, and team governors regrind next step to further our collective efforts and actions in support of social justice and racial equality,” a joint NBA–NBPA statement read.

Conditions of the arrangement include the immediate creation of a social justice coalition with representation from all parities. The panel will focus on current hot-button issues such as police reform efforts and expanded voting. 

The NBA will also help facilitate advertisement opportunities during the remainder of the playoffs “to promoting greater civic engagement” in elections at all levels of government.

Franchises Join The Cause

Finally, the league also agreed to use arenas for polling places during the Nov. 3 general election. In return, the NBPA decided player would end their strike for the playoffs to resume on Saturday.

Venues that are franchise-owned will be subjected to the new polling center plans, which will essentially turn them into super centers — a polling location that is available to all voters of a particular area, negating the requirement that they vote at specific locations, Politico reported. Previously, the Washington Wizards, Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Clippers agreed to serve as polling places. 

Teams from other sports had also decided to open their doors to the democratic process: the Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL), Newark-based New Jersey Devils (NHL), Washington Capitals (NHL), and Boston Red Sox (MLB). 

“This is exactly the kind of public-private type partnership that the voting process has always needed,” said Amber McReynolds, a former Colorado elections official who now leads the National Vote at Home Institute. “We’ve always needed the support, and I think the pandemic has energized it.”

‘We’re All Hurt’

LeBon James, who previously expressed his outrage following the alleged police shooting of Jacob Blake, 29, in Kenosha, Wis., is leading a separate effort to help voting efforts, NBC News reported. Alongside fellow athletes, LeBron created More Than a Vote, an organization to enlist young volunteers to man voting locations.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, America is facing a worker shortage. As a result, longer lines and closed polling centers disproportionally affected minority communities. 

“We’re all hurt, we’re all tired of just seeing the same thing over and over again and everybody just expects us to be OK just because we get paid great money,” said NBPA President Chris Paul, point guard for the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Associated Press reported. “We’re human, we have real feelings and I’m glad that we got a chance to get in a room and talk with one another and not just cross paths and say good luck in your game today.”

Local Governments Overwhelmingly Control Polling Locations

President Donald Trump, who criticizes efforts to expand vote-by mail on a nearly daily basis, has yet to comment on the agreement between the league and players union. Although his campaign team may consider legal options to block NBA teams from creating super centers, the power rests solely with the states and territories.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “State laws govern where polling places can be located, and some states are more directive than others. In Arizona’s presidential preference primaries, for example, the number of polling places is based on the number of active registered voters in a county. In contrast, some states, such as Florida and Minnesota, simply require one polling place per precinct.”

An overwhelming majority of states and territories rely on city and county officials to designate polling locations. Only the state-level governments of  American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island and South Carolina have the power to determine voting places.

Some governments have deadlines for choosing polling places. In the event that the deadline has passed, NBA arenas will be configured for other voting activities such as registration and ballot receiving boards, CNBC reported.  


Daniel Davis

Daniel Davis is Managing Editor for The Osage County Herald-Chronicle in Kansas and also covers International news for Inside Over, a Milan-based global affairs publication. He graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Outside of writing, he enjoys photography and one day hopes to return to video production. Learn more about him at his website danieldavis.la.

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