LeBron James going to All-Star with elections on his mind

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Golden State Warriors guard Brad Wanamaker, right, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

LeBron James is going to Georgia this weekend for more than the NBA All-Star Game.

He’s thinking about upcoming elections as well.

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The Los Angeles Lakers’ star, one of the organizers of the More Than A Vote organization that aims to stop Black voter suppression and which played a major role in the outcome of the 2020 elections by encouraging voter turnout, will narrate an ad that will be aired for the first time during Sunday’s All-Star Game in Atlanta — in which he vows that the efforts will continue.

“Look what we made happen, what our voices made possible,” James says in the 51-second spot. “And now, look what they’re trying to do to silence us, using every trick in the book and attacking democracy itself. Because they saw what we’re capable of, and they fear it.”

With the All-Star Game being relocated to Atlanta because of the pandemic — the original plan was for it to be played in Indianapolis last month — it provided James and the More Than A Vote group the perfect backdrop to detail some of their plans going forward.

The organization’s 2021 platform, announced Friday morning, comes just days after House Democrats sent a bill to the Senate that potentially represents the largest overhaul of the U.S. election law in at least a generation. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, which charts such things, said state lawmakers across the country have filed more than 200 bills in 43 states that would limit ballot access in future elections.

And earlier this week in Georgia, state lawmakers voted for legislation requiring identification to vote by mail that would also allow counties to cancel early in-person voting on Sundays — the “souls to the polls" events when many Black voters cast ballots after church.

“The question after the 2020 election was, ‘Will that momentum sustain itself? Will athletes stay engaged?’ And we’re saying, ‘Yes, absolutely, and here’s how,’” said More Than A Vote’s Michael Tyler, who was deputy communications director during Sen. Cory Booker’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination said.

“We’ve already been engaged to some degree in Georgia, which is Ground Zero for this wave of voter suppression efforts,” Tyler said. “We’ve been raising money for the new Georgia project, and we’ll use the All-Star Game to shine a light on this wave of voter suppression bills and start our 2021 national advocacy campaign and our platform.”

More Than A Vote is calling its latest plan the “Protect Our Power campaign,” which it said “will fight against this new wave of voter suppression efforts sweeping the country aimed at rolling back the gains Black voters made in last year’s general election.”

The organization recruited thousands of workers to help at polling places last year, sparked voter registration drives and concentrated efforts in key battleground states like Georgia. Record turnout led to Democratic wins in Georgia’s presidential election and two U.S. Senate runoffs.

And it's no secret that Democrats would strongly oppose adding barriers to mail-in and early voting, both of which were major factors in helping President Joe Biden win Georgia’s 16 Electoral College votes and Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff take the two Senate seats that gave Democrats control of the chamber.

James also stresses in the spot that the group isn’t about just words. They’re demanding, and promising, action.

“This isn’t the time to put your feet up or to think posting hashtags and black squares is enough,” James said to conclude the ad. “Because for us, this was never about one election. It’s always been More Than A Vote. It’s a fight that’s just getting started. And we’ve been ready. You with us?”


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