This week, Americans participated in a historic midterm election. The 2018 Midterms saw some of the highest voter turnout ever. According to NPR, more than 47% of eligible voters came out to the polls- higher than any midterm election in the past 50 years. To put it in perspective, the 2014 midterms saw a 36.7% turnout and the 2010 midterms saw 41%.
Some of this increased voter turnout was from young voters. In 12 states, the turnout for voters under 30 was higher than the 2014 midterm elections. As election day closed in, athletes and sports teams were working hard to encourage people to get out and vote, especially those young people. It wasn’t just professional athletes encouraging people to get out there and vote. Celebrity musicians, actors, models and more all have been sharing their voting selfies and posts throughout the past couple weeks.
Pro Athletes and Teams Work to Get Out the Vote
Athletes and teams from across the professional sports world all joined the movement to encourage people to hit the polls on November 6th.
NBA players Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins and Steve Nash hosted separate charity events in September and October that all included voter registration tables. Sacramento Kings’ Marvin Bagley III encouraged a group of students to vote during a visit to the Kings’ locker room. Buffalo Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander wrote a piece in USA Today about the importance of getting involved in politics and why athletes shouldn’t shy away from being vocal in this area.
Over their All-Star Weekend in July, the WNBA partnered with Rock the Vote to “highlight the importance of voting and participating in democracy”. WNBA players recorded videos and encouraged their followers to get out and vote, and the league made a donation to the Rock the Vote movement.
Athletes such as Chris Paul, Steph Curry and the Tennessee Titans’ Delaney Walker all partnered with Michelle Obama’s “When We All Vote” campaign. Steph Curry also starred in a video with Chance the Rapper on “Pod Saves America” about the importance of voting. Indiana Pacers’ Victor Oladipo spoke at a rally for Indiana senator Joe Donnelly.
NFL wide receiver Torrey Smith and his Carolina Panthers teammates shared a video on Twitter encouraging their fans to vote. NBA Legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar shared a video on Twitter as well, saying “Democracy is nothing without the participation of every citizen. Get out and vote.” Philadelphia Eagles defensive back and outspoken advocate Malcolm Jenkins shared his own message encouraging people to vote. Milwaukee Bucks’ Khris Middleton and WWE star Titus O’Neil also joined the movement.
The National Basketball Players Association shared a video with star NBA players encouraging people to go to the polls. The NFLPA shared a message from Executive Director DeMaurice Smith encouraging its players and their fans to cast their votes.
The Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) shared a thank you to all the professional athletes, leagues, teams and college programs that supported their #RISEtoVote campaign. This included the Miami Dolphins, who hosted a voting registration booth at their September 23rd home game for fans. Several NBA teams partnered with RISE to allow fans to register to vote via their team’s mobile app.
Some athletes even made an in-person appearance on election day. NFL Legend Takeo Spikes showed up to the polls in his home state of Georgia passing out water and pizza to those in line to cast their votes.
The 2018 Midterm Election Results
Even though a couple races are still being counted, the election results have been historic. We saw the first openly gay governor get elected in Colorado (Jared Polis). The first Native American women (Sharice Davids in Kansas and Deb Haaland in New Mexico) and the first Muslim women (Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and Ilhan Omar in Minnesota) were elected to Congress. We saw several former professional athletes bring home wins on Tuesday night as well – including Sharice Davids who was an MMA fighter.
Key amendments were passed that will almost certainly affect election results in the future. Florida voters passed Amendment 4, restoring the voting rights to more than 1.4 million convicted felons who have completed their sentence in the state. In Louisiana, Amendment 2 passed, requiring a unanimous jury verdict for all felony trials (now only Oregon allows a split jury for felony trials). Both of these issues were a big part of the newly formed Players Coalition (founded by 12 former and current NFL players) and their criminal justice reform campaign.
Players Coalition Pushes Criminal Justice Reform for the Midterms
One of the 12 founding members of the Players Coalition and former NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin wrote a piece in the Orlando Sentinel about the importance of Florida passing Amendment 4 and giving those 1.4 million people back their right to vote. New Orleans Saints star and another Players Coalition founding member Demario Davis shared several videos encouraging Louisiana voters to vote yes on Amendment 2.
The Players Coalition’s twitter account posted hundreds of updates leading up to and on election day of support for those proposed amendments impacting criminal justice reform around the country. The Players Coalition credits partner organizations like the ACLU, Second Chances Florida, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, VOTE New Orleans FIP, and Orleans Public Defenders for making all the amendments surrounding criminal justice reform that passed nationwide a reality.
NFL Player Launches App to Encourage Political Engagement
Former NFL player Walter Powell has gotten involved in politics a different way. His new app, Politiscope, which he co-founded with friend Jackson White, allows users to read about politics in “layman’s terms”. The app allows users to read a non-partisan player profile for politicians. Just like your favorite fantasy sports app, Politiscope breaks down and explains every bill a politician votes for or against in terms easy to comprehend. They hope to allow people to become more informed about politics and more engaged. Users can register to vote on the app and even contact politicians via phone, email or social media- all from that profile page.
It is so important that we exercise our right to vote in every election. Seeing so many teams and athletes who got involved and supported this movement shows that the era of “stick to sports” is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Athletes are speaking out and standing up for the causes, politicians and issues they believe in. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.