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On Nov. 8, which is Election Day, no NBA teams are scheduled to play. The NBA schedule for the upcoming 2022-23 season will have all 30 teams playing on Nov. 7, the night before midterm elections in the US. The league is hoping teams use that night to encourage fans to get out and vote, plus amplify the need for civic engagement.
Teams are being encouraged to share election information — such as registration deadlines — with their fan bases in the weeks leading up to Nov. 8.
According to ABC News, all 435 U.S. House seats will be up for grabs on Nov. 8, along with more than 30 U.S. Senate seats and gubernatorial races.
“It’s unusual. We don’t usually change the schedule for an external event,” James Cadogan, the executive director of the NBA’s social justice coalition, told NBC, which first reported the league’s Election Day schedule plan. “But voting and Election Day are obviously unique and incredibly important to our democracy.”
“The NBA is creating a culture of political participation, which extends not only to its athletes but to fans as well,” said Andrea Hailey, the CEO of Vote.org, which has partnered with the NBPA on various initiatives in recent years. “Players, coaches, event staff and fans all deserve to have the time and space to make their voices heard at the ballot box. The league is setting an important precedent that I hope other businesses and leagues will follow.”
Since 2020s reckoning with race in America after the murder of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, the NBA and its players have become much more vocal and assertive in challenging societal status quos in the areas of police brutality, structural racism, and more. Like the country they reside in, its players often reflect moments of helplessness, camaraderie, and eventual strategy in their efforts to bridge the gaps where inequality has existed for so long.
While legislators coast-to-coast decide on issues that impact not only everyday Americans, NBA players, coaches, staff and team personnel will now have the opportunity to take the day to vote for their preferred candidate, much like other developed nations.
The U.S. lags many other countries in election participation, ranking 26th out of 32 nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), according to the Pew Research Center in 2020. Countries outpacing the U.S. include the U.K, Mexico and Canada. In some of these countries, voting is compulsory, and in most of them, Election Day is a holiday.
The pitch to make Election Day a federal holiday has stalled.
Declaring Election Day a holiday has been proposed various times in Congress, and unfortunately, that is also where the conversation ended. In 2018, a Pew study found that 65% of Americans favored making Election Day a national holiday, however, without elected officials doing anything to bring it into fruition, it remains a pipe dream.
Senator Bernie Sanders (D – VT) introduced the “Democracy Day Act” in 2018, which proposed making Election Day a federal holiday. The bill had no cosponsors, though its concept was supported by most 2020 Democratic candidates for president. Then-candidate Joe Biden did not support the effort.
A newer proposal in 2021, S.2747 the Freedom to Vote Act, expanded on Senator Sanders vision around the country to include making Election Day a federal holiday, allow people to register to vote and cast a ballot on the same day, broaden the forms of identification needed to vote, and make no-excuse voting by mail easier. However, this too has come and went with barely visible Congressional support.
While the NBA routinely takes the point on social issues, it won’t be until elected officials change the laws to make voting more accessible for change to be seen and felt.
As one party clings to power with lies and manipulation, the other party religiously overpromises and underdelivers. Unwilling to let perfect be the enemy of good, NBA players, like their fans, vote their conscious based on the options provided and the more time all citizens have to make an informed decision about the future of their community and nation, the sooner our fractured democracy can heal.