The league pledged to use every team-owned arena as a polling place for the upcoming election, in cities where it’s still legally feasible so voters can fill out a ballot in a large, safe space, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, NY Daily News reports.
“If a deadline has passed, team governors will work with local officials to find another election-related use for the facility, including but not limited to voter registration and ballot receiving boards,” the two sides said in a joint statement.
Earlier this summer, three teams had already offered the use of their arenas for the same purpose: Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons, and Atlanta Hawks, with the Houston Rockets making the same guarantee on Thursday.
Chris Paul was visibly emotional during a press conference after the announcement. “In 15 years in the league, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Paul said. “Everyone expects us to go out and play. I get it. But we needed some time,” he said, adding that he had spoken to Jacob Blake’s father.
As a huge voting advocate, Paul had the entire Oklahoma City roster register to vote earlier this week after it was reported that only 20% of the league was registered.
On Wednesday, the Bucks jumpstarted the strikes and protests across American sports when the Milwaukee team refused to play that day’s playoff game due to the police shooting of Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sunday.
NBA games were on hold for three days, which resulted in Friday’s joint statement. The league and union have also agreed to create a “social justice coalition” of players, coaches, and owners. In addition to boosting voting access, the coalition is invested in “promoting civil engagement, and advocating for meaningful police and criminal justice reform.”
“These 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,” the statement read.
“We look forward to the resumption of the playoffs and continuing to work together—in Orlando and in all NBA team markets—to push for meaningful and sustainable change.”
Following the NBA’s strike, the WNBA also postponed its season for several days to promote conversations around systemic racism and police violence. Baseball and hockey games and football practices were on pause as well.
Recently, the NBA has taken steps to promote racial justice. Since the season restarted in late July, most players and coaches have been kneeling during the national anthem, the phrase Black Lives Matter has been painted on the court and can be seen during games, and athletes emblazoned their jerseys with social justice messages.