Lakers superstar LeBron James is heading up an organization of top black athletes and entertainers aimed at getting African Americans to the polls in November—and to ensure that their voting rights are not violated. James hopes that the worldwide protests against racism and police violence in the wake of George Floyd’s death will help to combat voter suppression among African Americans and other minorities in time for the presidential election.
“Because of everything that’s going on, people are finally starting to listen to us—we feel like we’re finally getting a foot in the door,” James told the New York Times. “How long is up to us. We don’t know. But we feel like we’re getting some ears and some attention, and this is the time for us to finally make a difference.”
The group, called More Than a Vote, also counts the Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young, Phoenix Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith, and former N.B.A. star Jalen Rose among its members, but with 136 million followers across Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, King James has the widest reach.
“Yes, we want you to go out and vote, but we’re also going to give you the tutorial,” James said. “We’re going to give you the background of how to vote and what they’re trying to do, the other side, to stop you from voting.”
While the killing of George Floyd moved James to “get out and do a little bit more,” he also finds inspiration in activist athletes of previous generations.
“I’m inspired by the likes of Muhammad Ali,” he said. “I’m inspired by the Bill Russells and the Kareem Abdul-Jabbars, the Oscar Robertsons—those guys who stood when the times were even way worse than they are today.”
Young, whose adopted hometown of Atlanta was the scene of a chaotic primary election on Tuesday, says he wants to be a role model for his own generation.
“If people my age see that I’m going out and I’m voting and I’m talking,” he said, “maybe the next 21-year-old will.”
“I’m sick of seeing unarmed black men killed by the police,” Diggins-Smith told the Times, adding that she wanted “to put some action behind my frustrations, behind my anger, behind the helplessness that I’ve been feeling.”
Rose, who called George Floyd’s death possibly the most galvanizing killing since the lynching of Emmett Till, noted that the number of young black voters had dropped in 2016, but promised, “We’re not letting that happen again.”
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