WASHINGTON – Simply previous midday on Election Day, after casting her vote the place the NBA’s Wizards and NHL’s Capitals play, Mary Pittman exited by one of many area’s glass doorways. Perched on the 77-year-old retiree’s walker: a stars-and-stripes hat touting the basketball staff, autographed on the brim in contemporary black ink.
“No line,” Pittman mentioned about Tuesday’s balloting. “No ready. No confusion. No fuss.”
At a time when athletes are embracing activism like by no means earlier than, refusing to heed the unfounded admonition framed two years in the past by one TV speaking head as “shut up and dribble,” there was vivid symbolism within the wide use of team arenas and stadiums as voter registration and polling sites.
If america’ fields of play as soon as had been walled off from politics — Colin Kaepernick, whose 33rd birthday occurred to be Tuesday, noticed his sideline kneeling to name consideration to police brutality and systemic racism contribute to his standing as a “former NFL quarterback” — they’ve grow to be fertile floor for these kinds of statements in 2020.
“Athletes, like anybody, are entitled to their opinion,” Pittman mentioned. “However I don’t must agree with it.”
And that’s completely tremendous, mentioned Ish Smith, the Wizards guard who signed Pittman’s cap.
“I’ve beloved and revered how we’ve … been in a position to communicate out on sure issues that was, up to now, uncomfortable. It says loads. Says how far we got here as athletes. And we’re going to continue to grow, hold evolving,” Smith mentioned.
“Sports activities and politics — normally folks hold to 1 aspect,” he mentioned. “Now they’re intertwining.”
Certainly, that intersection by no means has been as pronounced as now, whether or not manifested within the messages on courts and jerseys in the course of the NBA season. Or walkouts staged by that league’s gamers and adopted by others from tennis to hockey. Or the unfurling of a black ribbon held by the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees earlier than they knelt in unison on the first sport of the Main League Baseball season.
“Once I performed, gamers and coaches had been by no means — perhaps not by no means; not often — requested about politics and voting,” Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr mentioned. “However the occasions are completely different. Our nation is in turmoil, and everyone performs a job.”
Tuesday, in the meantime, was that uncommon day within the U.S. with out scoreboards.
No competitors. No practices. Nothing (apart from a relatively ho-hum NFL commerce deadline).
A few of that was courtesy of the coronavirus pandemic — the 2020-21 NBA and NHL seasons usually could be in full swing, however the delayed finishes of their earlier seasons pushed again the upcoming ones — and a few of it was due to Election Day. The NFL and Main League Soccer ordered everybody to take a day without work. Equally, the NCAA barred each top-division school staff from taking part in or coaching.
But sports activities’ presence was felt.
Athletes can “encourage folks to pay attention to 1 one other, to unite and are available collectively, extra so than divide,” Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores mentioned. “I feel that’s necessary to a variety of the gamers. I feel they need higher for this world.”
There have been wide-reaching, nonpartisan “get out the vote” efforts endorsed by gamers, groups and leagues themselves, together with Los Angeles Lakers celebrity LeBron James’ “Extra Than a Vote” group, fashioned not lengthy after the the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breona Taylor in Louisville.
There additionally had been athletes — and ex-athletes — who made it a degree to let people know which candidate, occasion or positions they help: endorsements of President Donald Trump tweeted by golf’s Jack Nicklaus and soccer’s Brett Favre; rally speeches in help of former Vice President Joe Biden by Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers; cellphone calls boosting Biden by Olympic determine skating medalist Michelle Kwan. In August, two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry appeared along with his spouse, Ayesha, and their two daughters in a video endorsing Biden in the course of the Democratic Nationwide Conference.
It’s an surroundings that led Wizards taking pictures guard Bradley Beal, Tennessee Titans linebacker Will Compton, NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace and others to proudly observe they had been voting for the primary time. And led WNBA gamers Tamika Catchings and Chiney Ogwumike to enroll to be ballot staff. And led Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder level guard Chris Paul to affix practically 2,500 folks on a march to a voting website in North Carolina. And led security Rodney McLeod and some Eagles teammates to encourage voter turnout by using a double-decker bus round Philadelphia.
A part of that enthusiasm, to make sure, is a results of stoking by Trump, who loudly decried peaceable protests by Kaepernick and different gamers and prompted extra athletes and groups than up to now to skip the standard champions’ White Home visits.
“Definitely, there are followers on the market who present pushback: ‘All we wish to do is watch sports activities. We don’t wish to be concerned in politics,’” mentioned Len Elmore, a former NBA participant who teaches a Columbia College class about athlete activism and social justice. “However these are the identical individuals who will push again on the notion of racism current and permeating all of our lives.”
In Cleveland, Ian Crawford — who wore an MLB Indians hat whereas voting on the NBA Cavaliers area — mentioned he is all for athletes expressing their ideas on large points.
“I don’t essentially know if, ‘Oh, LeBron is saying that, so I’m simply going to do no matter LeBron says to do,’ however it brings out different opinions and it type of makes you assume somewhat extra concerning the state of affairs,” Crawford mentioned. “People who find themselves type of curmudgeonly and (the) ‘follow sports activities’ type of factor is ridiculous.”
Wallace, the one full-time NASCAR driver who’s Black, discovered himself in a Twitter back-and-forth with Trump in July, which he referred to Tuesday as “being thrown into the political fireplace” — and linked to his decision to vote.
Wallace thinks athletes are going to make themselves heard recurrently now.
“You possibly can’t simply do it as soon as,” he mentioned. “It’s undoubtedly one thing that can hold happening. And I hold encouraging different athletes to maintain exercising their proper, utilizing their platforms, utilizing their voices.”
As Warriors guard Damion Lee put it: “These are the occasions the place everybody’s prepared for it. It’s not a second; it’s a motion.”
AP Sports activities Writers Doug Feinberg, Jenna Fryer, Dan Gelston, Kyle Hightower, Mark Lengthy, Rob Maaddi, Janie McCauley, Charles Odum, Anne M. Peterson, Dave Skretta, Teresa M. Walker, John Wawrow, Steven Wine and Tom Withers contributed to this report.
Extra AP Sports activities: https://apnews.com/hub/sports activities and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Extra AP Politics: https://apnews.com/hub/politics and https://twitter.com/AP_Politics
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