In comments published Wednesday by the newspaper, James said, “Yes, we want you to go out and vote, but we’re also going to give you the tutorial. We’re going to give you the background of how to vote and what they’re trying to do, the other side, to stop you from voting.”
In addition to James, the superstar forward for the Los Angeles Lakers who has long been outspoken on political issues, More Than a Vote is set to have the backing of other prominent athletes, including: Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green; New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara; Phoenix Mercury guard Skylar Diggins-Smith; and Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young.
Others reportedly involved include Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem, a former teammate of James’s, and ESPN analyst and former NBA player Jalen Rose. Comedian Kevin Hart may also join the organization, and James was said to be looking to the music industry for further support.
James said he wanted to take advantage of a national climate that, amid widespread protests against racial injustice in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, could present an opportunity to “make a difference” in the world of politics on behalf of black people.
“Because of everything that’s going on, people are finally starting to listen to us — we feel like we’re finally getting a foot in the door,” the three-time NBA champion and four-time league MVP said. “How long is up to us. We don’t know. But we feel like we’re getting some ears and some attention, and this is the time for us to finally make a difference.”
James, 35, said the death of Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis police pushed him to “get out and do a little bit more,” while Diggins-Smith said she was “sick of seeing unarmed black men killed by the police.” The 29-year-old Diggins-Smith added that she wanted to “put some action behind my frustrations, behind my anger, behind the helplessness that I’ve been feeling.”
More Than a Vote was described as still in its nascent stages, but it reportedly plans to, among other things, use its reach to amplify efforts by voting-rights groups such as When We All Vote and Fair Fight. A representative of When We All Vote — launched in 2018 by former first lady Michelle Obama and a number of celebrities including Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Janelle Monáe, plus NBA star Chris Paul and soccer star Megan Rapinoe — could not be immediately reached Wednesday evening for comment.
The head of When We All Vote, Kyle Lierman, said in a tweet Wednesday that “We need everyone in this fight to get it done.”
A spokesman for Fair Fight, founded in 2018 by former Georgia state representative Stacey Abrams after she lost a closely contested race there for governor, told The Washington Post that the organization would have no further comment right away other than a tweet it posted Wednesday: “We look forward to working with @KingJames and other professional athletes in More Than a Vote to stop voter suppression and protect the right to vote for Black voters across the country.”
On Tuesday, Abrams castigated Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) for “inaction, poor planning and horrific execution” of primary elections held that day. Those elections made national headlines for faulty electronic voting machines and long lines in certain areas, leading to accusations that black people and residents of less affluent areas were being effectively disenfranchised.
James replied Tuesday to a tweet sharing a complaint that while a black neighborhood was plagued with interminable waiting to vote, a predominantly white polling site in the Atlanta suburbs had no such issues.
“Everyone talking about ‘how do we fix this?’” tweeted James, who made a campaign appearance for Hillary Clinton in 2016. “They say ‘go out and vote?’ What about asking if how we vote is also structurally racist?”
On Wednesday, James told the New York Times, “There’s a lot of people that want change in the black community.” He then noted that “if you actually don’t put in the work or if you don’t have the mind-set, there’s never going to be change.”
Saying then that he would “definitely not shut up and dribble,” James declared, “I mean too much to so many kids that feel like they don’t have a way out, and they need someone to help lead them out of the situation they’re in.”
He went on to co-produce a series for Showtime called “Shut Up and Dribble” that examined what it described as “the changing role of athletes in our fraught cultural and political environment.”
“I’m inspired by the likes of Muhammad Ali, I’m inspired by the Bill Russells and the Kareem Abdul-Jabbars, the Oscar Robertsons — those guys who stood when the times were even way worse than they are today,” James said Wednesday. “Hopefully, someday down the line, people will recognize me not only for the way I approached the game of basketball, but the way I approached life as an African-American man.”