The NBA will not host any games on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, according to a league memo released on Tuesday. Additionally, all 30 teams will play the day before in a “civic engagement night.” The complete league schedule will be released tomorrow afternoon.
“We don’t usually change our schedule for an external event, but voting and Election Day are obviously unique and incredibly important to our democracy and that’s part of the value proposition that we want to make sure people understand that voting is unlike anything else,” James Cadogan, Executive Director of the league’s Social Justice Coalition, said.
When asked about concerns over people accusing the NBA of making symbolic gestures, Cadogan countered by simply saying “Symbols really matter.”
The decision to black out Election Day was inspired by the “NBA family’s focus on promoting nonpartisan civic engagement and encouraging fans to make a plan to vote during midterm elections.”
This announcement is the league’s latest step to promote and support voting efforts around the country.
Over the past two years, the NBA has consistently emerged as one of the loudest voices in sports, speaking out on political and social issues including gun violence and abortion rights. While independent players and coaches had vocalized their opinions in the past, this league-wide movement can be traced back to changes made ahead of the 2020 NBA bubble following a series of deaths of unarmed Black people including Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
Many NBA players and coaches joined the national outrage, with some teams like the Milwaukee Bucks boycotting a game in the bubble following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. Over 80% of NBA and WNBA players are players of color, the most of any major sports league.
In the bubble, many players and coaches opted to kneel during the National Anthem, taking a page out of Colin Kaepernick’s book. The league also created courts that prominently featured the phrase “Black Lives Matter” and invited players to exchange the last name of their jerseys for social justice messages. The list of 31 options included phrases from “I Can’t Breathe” to “Group Economics.”
Ten players -- including Jaren Jackson Jr. of the Memphis Grizzlies and Matisse Thybulle of the Philadelphia 76ers -- chose “Vote.”
Throughout the summer of 2020, a number of sports teams agreed to open their facilities as voting centers, offering additional space to safely vote amidst the pandemic. Ultimately 23 of the NBA’s 30 teams opened their doors for voting activities, from registration, polling and voting.
This remains an important issue for many players in the league, including LeBron James, who co-founded “More than a Vote,” a nonprofit whose mission is to “educate, energize and protect Black voters.”