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NBA Pledges To Turn Arenas Into Voting Sites, Announces Resumption Of Playoff Games

Capping off what’s already been a historic week for the NBA, the league’s commissioner and the National Basketball Players Association issued a joint statement Friday announcing the resumption of the NBA playoffs, as well as plans to promote voting access and address issues around racial injustice. The plans include transforming NBA arenas into voting sites for the November general election.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts said in the statement that playoff games would resume on Saturday — days after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to play in a Wednesday game against the Orlando Magic in reaction to the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Other NBA teams involved in the playoffs promptly chose to follow in the Bucks’ footsteps, pledging boycotts of their own. Athletes in other leagues soon also followed suit.

Silver and Roberts said the boycotts had prompted a “candid, impassioned and productive conversation” between the league and teams “regarding next steps to further our collective efforts and actions in support of social justice and racial equality.”

The next steps ultimately agreed upon include establishing a social justice coalition involving players, coaches and team governors; and airing ads during NBA playoff games that raise awareness around voter access.

The NBA also pledged to convert arenas into voting locations for the November general election.

“In every city where the league franchise owns and controls the arena property, team governors will continue to work with local elections officials to convert the facility into a voting location for the 2020 general election to allow for a safe in-person voting option for communities vulnerable to COVID,” the statement said. “If a deadline has passed, team governors will work with local elections officials to find another election-related use for the facility, including but not limited to voter registration and ballot receiving boards.”

As SB Nation noted, there are 29 NBA venues. It’s unclear, however, how many would be involved in the voting initiative. 

Several NBA teams had already offered to turn their arenas into voting sites, including the Bucks, Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons and Sacramento Kings. With their vast size — and potential for better social distancing — sports venues have been touted as particularly useful voting spaces during the pandemic. 

Silver and Roberts said Friday that the new commitments “follow months of close collaboration around designing a safe and healthy environment to restart the NBA season, providing a platform to promote social justice, as well as creating an NBA Foundation focused on economic empowerment in the Black community,” referring to a charity established by the league earlier this month. 

“We look forward to the resumption of the playoffs and continuing to work together … to push for meaningful and sustainable change,” they added.

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