Yow followed through a few weeks ago, and on Thursday, he and his girlfriend endured a short line at Centreville Regional Library to vote.
“It didn’t really hit me until I was alone with my ballot,” said Yow, a second-year attacker from Clifton, Va. “It made me feel like I’m getting older and progressing and continuing on a good path. It’s a big moment, something I’m proud of.”
While most of the D.C. roster is from abroad and Kevin Paredes, 17, is too young, the team said its nine eligible players have registered. Amid the late-season push for a playoff berth, which continues Sunday night in Foxborough, Mass., against the New England Revolution, all have voted or are planning to do so.
While political chatter has permeated locker rooms and clubhouses nationwide, particularly in a year of social justice causes and athlete-involved protests, it is heightened at Audi Field, which sits within view of the U.S. Capitol.
Discussions of tactical adjustments mix with climate-change debate.
“Playing for a sports team in Washington, D.C., we’re in the thick of it,” said Bill Hamid, 29, United’s starting goalkeeper for most of the past 10 years. “The dialogue has been healthy. You get to hear different perspectives because not everybody has the same views and same backgrounds. It’s a big learning opportunity.”
On Thursday, Hamid, a native of the D.C. area, voted for the first time, joining his 19-year-old sister at a Northern Virginia location.
Hamid didn’t vote in 2016, he said, “just off pure immaturity.”
“I didn’t understand the value,” he said. “I heard everyone say, ‘Vote, vote, vote!’ But I didn’t necessarily appreciate the importance not only for me but for young girls and boys after me. I value it now.”
Hamid and goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr. led United’s campaign not only to register players but to urge them to get involved in the process. Both are executive board members in Black Players for Change, which was founded this summer after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
“There are guys who are very liberal and some who are quite conservative” around the league, said Hamid, who voted for Democratic candidate Joe Biden. “I’m not someone to judge people on their personal views. If you’re conservative and act on it, I respect you. If you don’t make your voice count by actually voting, that’s the part I find frustrating.”
A third goalkeeper, Chris Seitz, is also a vocal leader on such matters. “He offered to drive me to register and to vote,” said Yow, who won’t receive his driver’s license until next weekend.
Hamid said he told Yow and others that “it’s not only about you voting; it’s that you have fans now, and you have to encourage people to get involved.”
So on Oct. 21, Yow recorded a social media video encouraging his young fans to vote.
Midfielder Russell Canouse, United’s representative in the players’ union, was also involved in the registration push. “Most years, some of the younger guys probably aren’t interested in voting,” he said.
At 25, Canouse will vote for the first time. In 2016, he was playing in Germany and wasn’t engaged in U.S. politics.
“Since I’ve been back, I feel it’s become more important to be active in researching and understanding the landscape of where our country stands,” he said. “Being in D.C. adds another dynamic, too.”
While Hamid and others enjoy engaging in political talk before and after practice, Canouse shies from it. “We need to be careful about how much we bring into the locker room environment,” he said.
Hamid said he disagrees with such stands, “but I respect it.”
“We do need to keep a certain level of camaraderie and chemistry to be successful on the pitch,” he said.
Both players say political chatter has not caused any tension. “Definitely not,” said Canouse, who didn’t want to disclose his presidential choice.
Hamid and defender Chris Odoi-Atsem are among players leaguewide embracing activism this year. They have joined social justice marches, including one with players from the Washington Wizards and Mystics.
“When you’ve played your career in D.C., conversations about issues and politics happen organically,” Hamid said. “I’ve been forced into this world of politics and am trying to make a difference. It’s my responsibility, it’s our responsibility, to pay attention, to be informed.”
Though they aren’t eligible to vote, some international players are engaged as well. Hamid and Canouse noted Swedish-born defender Axel Sjoberg, a Marquette graduate, for his political spirit.
For Yow, such conversations aren’t new. He said his parents are politically active. As his 18th birthday neared, Yow said they urged him to register. However, he added, “it was my teammates initially.”
For some time, Hamid said he thought Yow would be too young to vote this fall.
“Then we find out Griffin is almost 18!” he said. “So it’s perfect. We’ve got one of these young cats registered. It’s a start.”
D.C. United at New England Revolution
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Gillette Stadium.
Records: United 5-10-6, 21 points; Revolution 7-6-8, 29.
TV: WJLA 24/7 News. Live stream: dcunited.com