Thursday, October 29, 2020

Sports & Politics; All nonvoters not created equal.

October 15, 2020 by  
Filed under News, Politics, Sports, Weekly Columns

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( There has been no shortage about the importance of voting over the last several months. If it isn’t the various political commericals where candidates tout their superiority over their opponent, it is ads that tell the American public to participate in voting. Voting is always more emphasized during an election year but the coronavirus pandemic and the social unrest and protests against police brutality seem to have magnified the need to vote. Professional sports leagues have been promoting voting more than ever before due to the circumstances of the time, to the point that even NBA players wore it on their jersey during the NBA’s return inside the “bubble”. These attempts are all about grabbing the elusive “nonvoter”, the person who chooses not to vote for various reasons. Many people are aware that nearly half of the America’s eligible voters do not vote, approximately 92 million eligible voters. American nonvoters are various demographics but they also encampass some famous names in the realm of sports.

There is no doubt that one of the athletes that is intertwined with the current social justice movement in sports is free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick. His demonstrations during the national anthem back in 2016 and his initial statements against police brutality were the precursor for the reemergence of the socially outspoken professional athletes of decades ago like Muhammad Ali and Bill Russell. However, Kaepernick got a lot of pushback from various sides when he revealed shortly after to the 2016 U.S. Presidential election that he didn’t vote. Back in 2016, his reasoning was, “You know, I think it would be hypocritical of me to vote. I said from the beginning I was against oppression, I was against the system of oppression. I’m not going to show support for that system. And to me, the oppressor isn’t going to allow you to vote your way out of your oppression.” Whether you like Kaepernick’s reasoning or nont, his decision not to vote plays into his personality as an individual who doesn’t want to be boxed into supporting anything he deems as oppressive.

Shaq Voting

It was a bit more head scratching when NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal revealed that on his podcast “The Big Podcast with Shaq,” that he had never voted in an election, and that he did so for the first time this year with an absentee ballot. The 48 year old O’Neal is one of the most famous sports personalities over the past 30 years and remains visible as a NBA analyst for TNT. He mentioned that there was “no excuse” for not voting earlier, but it was not knowing how the electoral college works that was the biggest reason for his not voting in the past. It is strange to hear that Shaquille O’Neal, who has been interested in a career in law enforcement for much of his life, was a nonvoter for about three decades. O’Neal has been boisterious both on and off the court as a public figure for the last 25 years and unafraid to share his opinions which makes his revelation all the more baffling and his opinions on the murder of Breonna Taylor even more problematic.

Both Colin Kaepernick and Shaquille O’Neal have made millions of dollars due to their athletic careers. They have privilege due to their financial status and much more fame than the average person. They could be critiqued for being nonvoters as privileged to not have to vote because many of the problems that the average American have to face are not “their problems”. However, they are both also Black men in a country in which that is still a factor in the treatment that they receive relative to their white counterparts of a similar ilk. The decision not to vote is a complex one and doesn’t necessarily deserve to be shamed even if many Black people of the past struggled and died for the “right” to vote. Voting is an option that was opened up by Black ancestors but not mandatory.

Staff Writer; Mark Hines

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