NBA, LeBron James’ group team to fight voter suppression during All-Star weekend

Los Angeles Lakers Anthony Davis, left, LeBron James, center, and Quinn Cook kneel during the national anthem with VOTE shirts on prior to the start of the game in September. James has started a voting rights organization that will try to call attention during the All-Star Game weekend in Atlanta to legislation moving through the Georgia Legislature that would place restrictions on voting. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images/TNS)
Los Angeles Lakers Anthony Davis, left, LeBron James, center, and Quinn Cook kneel during the national anthem with VOTE shirts on prior to the start of the game in September. James has started a voting rights organization that will try to call attention during the All-Star Game weekend in Atlanta to legislation moving through the Georgia Legislature that would place restrictions on voting. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Focus comes as Atlanta hosts event

The NBA is teaming up with the voting rights organization started by LeBron James to target voter suppression during the league’s All-Star Game weekend in Atlanta amid a brutal political fight in the state Legislature over sweeping measures that would restrict ballot access.

More Than A Vote, the group launched by James, said Tuesday that it was partnering with the NBA, the NBA Players Association and the state chapter of the NAACP to draw attention to attempts in Georgia and other battleground states to roll back voting rights.

The groups intend to use the attention surrounding the All-Star Game, which will be played Sunday in Atlanta, to amplify concerns about legislative proposals that would make it harder for Black people to vote in future elections.

Georgia legislators are considering Republican-backed measures to require more ID for absentee ballots, limit weekend early voting days, curb the use of ballot drop boxes, eliminate no-excuse mail-in voting and restrict mass-voting sites such as arenas.

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“The attacks on voting rights in Georgia are egregious, but they’re just one example of what is a nationwide effort to strip Black voters of our power,” said Addisu Demissie, the executive director of More Than A Vote.

“Given that we’ll have a national audience tuning in to watch the All Star Game this weekend in Atlanta, we have a unique opportunity to work together with our partners to shine a spotlight on these voter suppression efforts that target the league’s most loyal fan base and provide fans with the tools they need to fight back.”

Lawmakers in Georgia and 42 other states are considering more than 250 measures that would create impediments to voting, particularly among voters who rely on mail-in voting during the pandemic, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a policy institute at New York University.

Democrats, civil rights groups and other critics say the measures amount to retaliation after Democratic wins in November and January, and they note that there is no evidence of systemic voter fraud or widespread irregularities, despite the lies that Donald Trump and his allies promoted to try to reverse his defeat in November’s presidential election.

Election officials, including Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, have said there’s no evidence of widespread fraud that could have changed the election, and the results were verified by recounts and audits.

Republican lawmakers say their proposals would restore confidence in elections after it was undermined by Trump and other members of the GOP. None of the state GOP lawmakers who supported Trump’s claims have contested the results of their own General Assembly elections.

Since launching in July 2020, James’ group has worked with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to recruit roughly 40,000 volunteer poll workers, offered thousands of voters free rides to the polls and helped Florida voters with certain prior felony convictions register to vote.

More Than A Vote also played a role in pushing 23 NBA teams to convert their arenas into voting locations during the 2020 election cycle, including State Farm Arena in Atlanta. The group is particularly concerned about legislation that would restrict the use of mass-voting sites, which were popular during a pandemic that heightened the need for socially distanced practices.

More Than A Vote, a voting rights group that Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James formed, has raised concerns about legislation in Georgia that would restrict the use of mass-voting sites. State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta served as such a site during elections in November and January, allowing for more space for social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)
More Than A Vote, a voting rights group that Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James formed, has raised concerns about legislation in Georgia that would restrict the use of mass-voting sites. State Farm Arena in downtown Atlanta served as such a site during elections in November and January, allowing for more space for social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

“That progress is under attack right now in Georgia and in other states across the country,” said Michael Tyler, a spokesman for More Than A Vote. “The effort to eliminate arena voting is one of the many voter suppression tactics we intend to shine a light on.”

Mark Tatum, the NBA deputy commissioner and a board member of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition, said the league aims to promote “greater access to voting and encourage civic participation.”

The bills moving through a number of state legislatures would, if enacted, make it harder for people to vote,” he said. “We will continue to work alongside our partners and nonpartisan voting organizations to monitor legislation across the country and work to ensure that voting is made easier and more accessible for every American regardless of party affiliation.”

Michele A. Roberts, the executive director of the NBA Players Association, said players have “pledged to use their voices to join others in the fight against those who seek to deny equal justice in our communities.”

“These attacks on voter rights in Georgia and elsewhere will not go unchallenged.”

Staff writer Mark Niesse contributed to this article.

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