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LeBron James, wearing a "Vote" tshirt during a game. Photo: Getty Images
LeBron James, wearing a "Vote" tshirt during a game. Photo: Getty Images

Lebron James’ More Than a Vote put Black voting in the spotlight during the NBA All-Star Game

The organization aired an advertisement during the game and has a campaign to mobilize Black voters in off-election years.

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“Look what we did. Look what we made happen, what our voices made possible. 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.” 

These inspiring words were spoken by basketball legend, LeBron James, in his new ad campaign, entitled Protect Our Power, which is calling attention to the recent wave of Republican-backed legislation aimed at restricting voter access

The ad, which premiered during the 2021 NBA All-Star Game on Sunday, March 7, is a carefully selected montage of images and videos from last summer’s flood of racial justice protests, Black politicians, activists and athletes — juxtaposed with clips of the destruction from the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Fittingly, the ad premiere fell on the 56th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” when nonviolent voting rights activists led by the late Congressman John Lewis marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to advocate for voting rights and were brutally beaten by police officers. 

Sunday’s All-Star game was played in Atlanta, Georgia which Lewis represented in Congress for decades. 

Protect Our Power is the latest move on behalf of James’ foundation, More Than a Vote, which has successfully increased voter registration through its website and has held voting drives for the Black community. 

It has donated $100,000 to the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition to help pay the debts of formerly-incarcerated individuals so that they can register to vote. 

The group has enlisted other NBA players like Ben Simmons, Draymond Green, Trae Young, Jaylen Brown, Kyle Lowry, as well as former NBA players and current and former WNBA players like Chiney Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins. 

The campaign is also seeking to mobilize Black voters in off-year and municipal elections. 

James is not just looking to raise awareness, but to influence people to take action. 

“This isn’t the time to put your feet up or to think posting hashtags and black squares is enough. 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?” the superstar athlete continued. 

He argues that the success that his organization and others had in prompting new voter registrations and increasing turnout has directly led to Republicans attempting to make it more difficult for people to vote. 

Addisu Demissie, the executive director of More Than a Vote, stressed that the ad campaign is intending to make people aware that these issues must be addressed year-round. 

“We are in a position to let the world know and, in particular, let people who are new to the process or not as engaged with politics know, that these fights around voter suppression don’t just take place during an election year,” Demissie said. 

A secondary goal for the group is to indicate to people that the kind of activism that athletes participated in during Donald Trump’s administration is far from over, and that the momentum from culturally influential figures must continue to secure lasting social change. 

The Brennan Center for Justice found last month that more than 250 bills aimed at limiting voter access have already been filed since the November 2020 presidential election. 

More Than A Vote says that their objective is to “restore the American people’s confidence in the integrity of their free and fair elections” by “making it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” echoing Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud. 

The group is beginning their focus on Georgia, which turned into a prominent battleground state after Joe Biden became the first Democratic presidential nominee to win there since 1992. They will be partnering with the Black Voters Matter Fund, Fair Fight Action, the New Georgia Project and Georgia NAACP. 

Their endgame is to expand the important work done in Georgia to other states where stricter voter laws may be passed, such as Florida, Arizona and Pennsylvania. 

Renee Montgomery, a WNBA player who decided to opt out of the 2020 season to focus on social justice, became a member of More Than A Vote, and is now a co-owner of her former team, the Atlanta Dream. 

“We know that as athletes and as leaders we have to keep our foot on the gas to protect our power, preserve and expand our voting rights, and to continue turning moments into momentum,” Montgomery said. “More Than A Vote is just getting started.” 

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