Editor’s Note: Ahead of Election Day on November 3rd, NBC News and MSNBC launched “Plan Your Vote.” It’s an interactive tool that encourages Americans to plan when and how they will vote, taking into account each state’s coronavirus restrictions, mail-in ballot rules, early in-person voting guidelines and more.
As the 2020 WNBA season progressed, voter advocacy became a major theme. Athletes celebrated National Voter Registration Day in September, used their social media platforms to educate fans, and often wore warm-up shirts and masks with a singular word: “VOTE!”
Terri Jackson, the executive director of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA), says some of this momentum can be traced back to late August, when Jacob Blake was seriously injured after being shot in the back seven times by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Following Blake’s shooting, WNBA games were halted for two days. In a statement on Thursday, August 27, WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike explained the reason for the pause. “It is important to note that this is not a strike. This is not a boycott. This is affirmatively a day of reflection. A day of informed action and mobilization.”
Mobilize they did. By the end of that weekend, over 90% of eligible WNBA players had registered to vote (or confirmed their voter registration), according to Jackson.
Players also helped encourage their fans to register. In collaboration with its ongoing partnership with Rock the Vote, the WNBPA also launched the Hoopers Vote initiative. Individual players have also teamed up with When We All Vote, More Than A Vote, and League of Women Voters.
Since the WNBA season ended earlier this month, many players have continued using their platforms for voter advocacy work. And with Election Day now just one week away, some have already voted.
Ogwumike, who is from Texas, says she “voted early and in person” on October 16. Las Vegas Aces center Carolyn Swords voted the following day on October 17, the first day of early voting in Nevada.
Other players have voted by mail. Natasha Cloud of the Washington Mystics took the 2020 season off to focus on social justice work, but is playing professionally in Italy this winter. Before getting on her flight across the Atlantic, she dropped her ballot in the mailbox. Earlier this fall, Cloud also helped ensure that the Mystics’ arena will be used as a polling center on Election Day.
Atlanta Dream’s Renee Montgomery also took the 2020 WNBA season off to focus social justice work, specifically: getting out the vote. She has partnered with voter advocacy groups and has hosted voter education seminars on social media. “There are so many options that not voting really isn’t one,” she recently told her Instagram followers.
This year, both the WNBA and WNBPA are recognizing Election Day as a Day of Service, providing staff with the day off so they can take the time to vote or help others vote as poll workers.
Ogwumike recently learned that she will be serving as a poll worker, and she won’t be the only Ogwumike filling that role. “I am happy and pretty proud to report that my sisters Chiney and Olivia will join me as Election Day Clerks,” she said on Monday.