Beal joined D.C. elections officials Thursday to encourage early voting at places such as Capital One Arena this fall. Asked what he would tell potential voters who are on the fence about whether it’s worth it, Beal said those same feelings that prevented him from voting in past elections.
“I was someone who thought my vote didn’t count,” he said ruefully, adding that now, “I stand here and say it does.”
The star shooting guard is among a throng of NBA players who are urging their peers and others to vote in the upcoming election and find ways to get involved in advocating for social justice.
Their efforts came to a head in late August, when the league faced a three-day shutdown during the playoffs as players protested the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.
After the protest, the NBA launched a number of initiatives, including the creation of a coalition of players, coaches and governors to promote voting access, as well as the use of NBA arenas as voting locations.
The D.C. Board of Elections will use Capital One Arena and Nationals Park as voting centers during the early-voting week and on Election Day.
Speaking at his team’s arena Thursday, Beal, who is Black, said he changed his mind about the importance of voting after having conversations with his parents and grandparents, who taught him what they went through to secure the right to vote.
“I was kind of ignorant. Being naive — ‘who cares, how many people in the world, okay, my vote won’t count’ — that’s kind of ignorant thinking, and I totally migrated from that,” Beal said. “I clearly took that for granted for eight to 10 years.”
Beal said he hopes to make appearances at Capital One Arena during election week as additional incentive for voters to participate amid the coronavirus pandemic. The D.C. elections board hopes the large venue will cut down on lines and allow people to remain socially distanced when they cast their ballot.
In the District, elections officials are bracing for “record-shattering” turnout and encouraging voters to cast their ballots early, mail them or use ballot drop boxes to avoid long lines on Nov. 3.
“I don’t necessarily see myself or consider myself an activist, but I feel like I have a platform, and I’m going to utilize it to the best of my ability,” Beal said.
“Right now,” he said, “this voting year coming up in October-November is the most important time for us all to vote.”