“I don’t like being called a hypocrite when I call on people to vote, when I don’t fill out the ballot myself.” Basketball player Shaquille O’Neal echoed those words last week USA Sports Today In his first ever round of voting. “I never took the time. My mother was disappointed. My Uncle Jerome was disappointed. But this year I made time.”
The fact that big names in American sports are voting for themselves and calling on others to do the same is a movement that has only emerged in recent years. Moreover, this may be important for the outcome: Americans, whether Democrats or Republicans, recognize sports as a shared value. Sports are closely linked to society. At the same time, sports are more political than anywhere else.
This is particularly evident in major competitions, where social inequality now plays an increasingly important role. Also for this election. The major leagues, the NFL and NBA, have launched various initiatives to encourage fans to vote. But change starts with you, that’s what the athletes thought. While only a quarter of active NBA players cast ballots in 2016, 96% of all players registered in this election. Among them are O’Neal and, of course, LeBron James, the sports figure most opposed to Trump.
James has been riding the wave of outrage for four years since Colin Kaepernick knelt at an NFL game in 2016 when the US national anthem was played. According to a poll conducted by Politico, that moment inspired black Americans in particular to cast their votes. James is the man who gives these people one last push. With his own “More Than a Vote” initiative, but also through his countless press conferences on the subject, especially after the shootings of George Floyd and Jacob Blake.
He now has many supporters, also from the sport. After Blake’s shooting, the Milwaukee Bucks walked off the field in a playoff game, shutting down all basketball for two days. In negotiations for the restart, it was decided that at least 23 stadiums would become polling places, in response to Trump’s decision to close polling places.
Trump is also seeking votes through sports
Meanwhile, Trump has not given up on sports. The Republican-Democrat divide in sports runs roughly along the line between club owner and player. Especially in American soccer, many white and wealthy club owners are Trump donors. ESPN Sports has investigated the amount of money flowing from sports clubs to party coffers in recent years. At least $45 million since 2015, ten times as much goes to Trump as goes to his Democratic opponent. But that was official, because according to the sports channel, it has become increasingly popular to make donations anonymously – and also to make support invisible to players, as ESPN discovered.
It is certain that the support that Trump receives from club owners was a reason for him trying to influence this election through sports. Especially in a number of important swing states such as Minnesota, Iowa, and Ohio.
What happened? Due to the coronavirus, American college football for universities in the country, a competition that regularly attracts more viewers than its big brother, the NFL, has also been cancelled. Just as in other sports, teams play against each other in conferences, and so also in the Midwest, almost the location of the important states where Biden has a relatively small lead in the polls (in addition to the above, for example, the important Pennsylvania). Some of the most popular college teams play in what is called the Big Ten Conference, such as Ohio State and Penn State.
Trump showed himself in September as a strong supporter of resuming that conference, to show that America is capable of returning to its pre-crisis normality. Although his influence later turned out to be relatively limited, Trump took credit when the competition finally began. He even said it verbatim in the first presidential debate: “I have the Big Ten College football reduced. “It was me, and that’s a credit to me.”
The question is whether his latest attempt to include sports in his election campaign will give him victory in important states. But he points out that he tried to take advantage of every opportunity. On the other hand, there is also the question of how the votes of O’Neal and other athletes helped the presidential candidate. Results Wednesday morning
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