With the globe, or at least much of it, recoiling in horror and mobilizing in fury in the wake of George Floyd dying under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, leaders within the sports world began exploring responses, one of which is emphasizing the power of the vote.
Voting can be a polarizing topic. Some see it, if done knowledgeably, as a path toward justice. Others consider it pointless, an exercise in perpetuating a system built on racial inequality. Some simply lack the motivation to self-educate.
The Warriors last Friday made a potent effort to address these issues. They summoned a specialist: California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.
The latest in a series of speakers from across the sociopolitical spectrum to address Warriors employees in a virtual Town Hall setting, Padilla spent about 35 minutes delivering a voting tutorial and taking questions on the process.
“So many questions had been raised about the process of mail-in-votes and just how voting works, that reaching out to the Secretary of State was kind of one of those ‘Hail Marys,’ where you think it would be great if we could possibly get him,” Warriors COO Rick Welts told NBC Sports Bay Area on Monday night. “And he agreed right away.”
About 350 Warriors employees tuned into the video session, with voting advocate and entrepreneur Elsa Collins, wife of assistant coach Jarron Collins, serving as the moderator.
After giving an informative opening statement, Padilla, from Sacramento, invited questions from the audience. Here are some of the issues he addressed:
On the California registration process: “We’re the state that wants to make it as easy as possible for people who are eligible to register to vote, to stay registered, and then to actually cast your ballot. We hear story after story about how it is in other states, where it's tougher to register, you get kicked off the rolls, or there's polling places that close, or you need specific excuses to vote by mail. But not in California.” Go to vote.ca.gov and follow the prompts.
On ballot tracking and security: “Because of COVID, it’s frankly probably going to be the safest option for voting, and it happens to be the most convenient. And, yes, it is secure, despite what some people may be claiming about vote-by-mail. ‘Where is my ballot?’ is our new ballot-tracking tool that is available statewide. Just like when you track your packages when you’re shopping online, you can now track your ballot through the delivery process. You can sign up to get alerts by phone call by email or by text message notices.”
On mail-in ballots: “Every active registered voter in California is going to be getting a vote-by-mail ballot in advance of the election. First week of October is when they start arriving.
“California makes it easy; you don't even need stamps because return postage is prepaid. If you prefer, you can also deliver your ballot to any ballot drop box in your county. They're kind of like a mailbox but clearly marked for ballots only, and again in the weeks leading up to the election, including Election Day itself. Chase Center is going to be hosting a couple of ballot drop boxes, just to give you an example of where you can find them.”
On in-person voting: “There are a lot of people that need to vote in person, for a variety of reasons. If that’s you, or somebody you know, you're going to have options and it's not just going to be on Tuesday, November 3rd. Technically, Tuesday, November 3rd is Election Day. But I want everybody to start thinking about it as the last day to vote. We're going to be encouraging people to vote early. Vote by mail, early, or vote in-person early. Most counties were going to have voting available starting on Saturday, October 31st. So, you can vote on Saturday. You can vote on Sunday. You can vote on Monday. Or, if you insist on waiting until the last minute, you can vote on Tuesday if you didn’t vote by mail.”
Padilla’s office oversees federal and state elections, and also maintains a database of all registered voters. He emphasized throughout the session that, although a member of the Democratic party, all information discussed was nonpartisan in nature.
“One of the things that we try to do in our office actually is to put out nonpartisan information,” he said. “So, look for your voter information guide in the mail. It can sometimes be a good reference when you're deciding about not just who to vote for in different positions but all the propositions on the policy issues that are on the ballot.”
The Warriors conduct these sessions roughly twice a month, with a guest speaker addressing such topics as politics or racism or policing or economics. Previous speakers include veteran journalist Soledad O’Brien, basketball Hall of Famer Spencer Haywood, San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott, actor-comedian George Lopez and NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
All of it is done through the magic of Ring Central, as Welts acknowledged he can’t imagine persuading a dozen or so speakers to drop by the team’s San Francisco headquarters.
“We were already doing in-person town halls about once a month, at Chase Center, leading up to the pandemic,” Welts said of the employee assemblies. “The last one was when we gathered everybody together and told them we were sending them all home. It was a scary moment just because I wasn't really convinced you could send 500 people home and have the organization function the way we need to.
“I’m happy to report, six months later, that I was 100 percent wrong.”
It’s an example of an NBA franchise intersecting sports and politics to inform those on its payroll. In the end, it’s about people. And knowing education is the antidote for ignorance.