NBA arena voting centers have impact in Atlanta, Detroit

Several NBA teams turned their facilities into voting centers for the election in Detroit and Atlanta

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During a conversation with LeBron James, Barack Obama made a suggestion that could have possibly made an impact on the election.

The former president spoke with the Los Angeles Lakers superstar in August after the shooting of Jacob Blake and the NBA games were canceled as part of a boycott.  Obama called in while the players were in the bubble and their discussion was recently revealed on The Shop, James’ barbershop talk show that airs on HBO.

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NBA Los Angeles Lakers
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

“One of the suggestions I had for the players was: Is it possible for you guys to set up an office that allows you, on an ongoing basis, to take best practices that are going to start making incidents like [the Blake shooting] less likely?” Obama said.

After that conversation, several NBA arenas and workout centers around the country decided to use its space as voting centers particularly in underserved areas. James’ organization “More Than A Vote” collaborated with players and 23 teams turned facilities into voting centers and polling places, per NBA NBC Sports.

The teams really took activism to a new level. The Detroit Pistons used their practice facility, Henry Ford Performance Center, as a voting center. Atlanta’s State Farm Center used its facility as a voting and counting location. The Phoenix Suns also transformed its facility, Veterans Memorial Coliseum, into an early ballot drop off location.

Back in June when announcements of the initiative began to roll out James tweeted, “The easiest way to keep us from changing anything is to keep us from voting. As athletes, we stand on the shoulders of giants. We must continue their fight on behalf our community.”

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The Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia was not approved to become a voting facility. The 76ers were told no thank you when they offered it to the city. It is unclear the direct impact these facilities made on the outcome of Tuesday’s presidential election but the camaraderie of the NBA teams are exemplary.

The impact of these arenas are unquantifiable for now. There is no way to determine how many people voted at each location or who they voted for yet, but for one NBA player, this election season made a difference.

“I can selfishly say I was that person four years ago, and eight years ago,” said Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards said over the summer at his home court, Capital One Arena, per NPR. “I was someone who didn’t take registration seriously, and I was someone who thought my vote didn’t count.”

“I had a conversation with my parents, my grandparents … just understanding what they went through in order to have that right to vote, in order to have that privilege for their voice to be heard,” he said. “I clearly took that for granted for eight to 10 years, and so I definitely want to nip that in the bud.”

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