In a rare instance this season, the NBA would like its employees not to worry about basketball.
The league is going dark on Tuesday so that players, coaches and team employees can head to the polls and encourage others to vote on none other than Election Day 2022.
“If people want to drive change in their neighborhoods and communities, it’s important to exercise your right to vote,” said New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum, who is also serving as president of the National Basketball Players Association. “What better way to display that than by not having any games on that day?”
McCollum and James Cadogan, executive director of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition, spoke to NBA.com about the importance of not playing games on Election Day, encouraging voting through a non-partisan lens and more.
Editor’s note: The following 1-on-1 conversations have been edited and condensed.
How did the idea come up for the NBA not to have games on Election Day?
CJ McCollum: We had a lot of conversations behind closed doors with the competition committee. I also have a weekly standing call with Adam Silver [NBA commissioner] and Tamika Tremaglio [NBPA executive director]. We needed to make sure that kids and people around the world understand the importance of this day. It’s about being a part of a democracy and protecting that. This will empower people to vote.
James Cadogan: It was one of the first things that came up in the offseason. The idea came up between a lot of different people with the NBPA, the league office, as well as team marketing and business operations. Everybody started talking about scheduling around Election Day and making sure we didn’t have any games. To build off of that, how about we have all 30 teams play the day before so we can drive attention to participation engagement?
Why was it important to do this during the midterm elections?
McCollum: In some ways, local elections are even more important. That’s the lead-up to the bigger one. It’s also focused on the community from where we grow up. That’s how you really impact your community. That helps drive the right type of change. Then you got the House and the Senate [races]. All of those things are important as well.
Cadogan: A lot of attention obviously and rightfully goes toward presidential elections. But midterms are incredibly important, especially local and state ballot races. Local governments and elected officials have enormous influence over how we live our lives, from whether or not potholes are filled as well as fiscal policy and municipal budgeting. Those are all things that impact every single one of us.
How do you ensure these voting efforts are nonpartisan?
McCollum: I’m not telling people who they need to vote for. I’m telling people they need to vote. Everybody has their own personal preferences and opinions on things that impact them differently in different areas, localities and municipalities. For me, it’s about educating myself as much as possible so that I’m comfortable speaking on things that I want to speak on. I never tell people what to say or what to believe. I only tell them what I believe. That’s what is important. The rest is whatever you want it to be. It’s important that we spread awareness on the actual act of voting. The rest is up to each individual person.
As President of the @TheNBPA, @CJMcCollum has made it a priority to increase awareness throughout the NBA on the importance of voting. He was instrumental in the NBA’s decision to not play any games on Election Day 🗳 pic.twitter.com/Fn4icplQXr
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) October 31, 2022
Cadogan: We’re very clear that when it comes to civic engagement and our league-wide voting initiatives that these efforts are all nonpartisan. We partner with a number of organizations at the league office, NBPA and individual markets that are nonpartisan. Some examples are HeadCount, I am A Voter and When We All Vote. It doesn’t matter where you are on the political spectrum. When it comes to civic engagement, it’s about the fact that you are voting.
The more people we get engaged at the federal, state or local level, the better off we are. That’s the foundational principle of democracy. We can all disagree about the issues. But we have to raise our voices. Then, we can start having real debates about how we make the world a better place.
What are your takeaways from the NBA’s previous voting initiatives in 2020?
McCollum: The important part is we’ve given people more opportunities to vote. After the NBA bubble, we started opening arenas and practice facilities as voting centers to encourage and empower people to vote. If you vote on Election Day, it’s crazy with the lines. If you have to work, have kids or have other responsibilities, that becomes more difficult to have the luxury of standing in line for possibly five hours. It’s also about continuing to create equal access. It shouldn’t be hard for people to vote. It’s a right we have. You should be able to exercise it, and it shouldn’t be difficult.
Cadogan: One of the things I’m most proud of is how people across the NBA community used their positions to vote. Because we’re a basketball league, a lot of our influence and impact has been with younger people. Young people are the future, and we want to speak to them. When I was watching basketball and “NBA Inside Stuff” as a kid, the messages from the NBA were important to me. Hopefully, we can make the same impact.
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Mark Medina is a senior writer/analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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