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Battle lines drawn as sports stars, past and present, back US presidential rivals

From NBA stars to golfing icons, athletes have been using their voice to encourage others to vote ahead of the US election on Tuesday.

The US president is also clearly aware of the potential value an athlete’s support can provide.

A well-known lover of golf, President Donald Trump pinned 18-time major winner Jack Nicklaus’ tweet of support to the top of his Twitter profile last week, describing the endorsement as a “great honor.”

Elsewhere, the NBA and WNBA have been at the forefront of political activism this year notably since the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum after the death of George Floyd.

Los Angeles Lakers’ star LeBron James has led the way in promoting voter registration and set up the organization ‘More Than A Vote’ in an effort to combat systemic, racist voter suppression.
Across the US, counties with larger minority populations have fewer polling places and poll workers per voter, and since 2010, the number of states that have imposed voter ID restrictions has risen to 36, according to an ACLU report earlier this year.

Large, iconic venues such as Dodger Stadium and the Staples Center in Los Angeles as well as State Farm Arena in Atlanta will serve as polling places this fall — open to voters for early voting as well as on Election Day itself.

Overall, more than two dozen NBA venues have been used for voters to cast their choices.

The ‘More Than a Vote’ group is made up of prominent Black athletes and artists who are using their social media channels to encourage and educate their followers on how to cast a ballot for this year’s election.

We want to amplify the energy behind staying engaged in voting,” says former NBA star Caron Butler on the “More Than A Vote” movement.

“I just want to inform. The minorities will be the majority in 2045. And that’s why it’s so important that we get engaged.”

“We’re just trying to change that narrative and let them know that this is important. You are wanted and you are needed,” James told reporters when launching the group.

LeBron James has encouraged people to vote at this year's US election.

Rapinoe

In a conversation with former President Barack Obama for the HBO Series “The Shop,” James recently revealed that he believes his mom has voted for the first time and says change is right around the corner.

“She sent me video today, after she voted she had her sticker on her chest, she was so damn proud of herself and I was so proud of her,” James said. “It’s a beautiful thing. There is some change happening.”

Meanwhile, USWNT star Megan Rapinoe has publicly backed Biden ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

The soccer star has been embroiled in a bitter feud with Donald Trump since speaking out against social injustices during the Women’s World Cup in 2019.

Rapinoe has since taken to her social media accounts to repeatedly promote the Democratic party and jokingly pitched herself as Biden’s running mate back at the start of his campaign.

Biden recently congratulated Rapinoe for her engagement with partner Sue Bird on Twitter.

“Thank you @JoeBiden. Love does always win,” she responded.

Trump support

Elsewhere, a number of sporting icons have publicly backed Trump and encouraged others to reelect the president.

Golf great Nicklaus says he has voted for the Republican after Trump’s “love for America and its citizens, and putting his country first, has come through loud and clear.”

The 80-year-old tweeted his support for the president in a post that was widely shared and has received over 41,000 replies.
Another Trump endorsement came from NFL great Brett Favre, who had mostly avoided making political statements throughout his playing career.

The 51-year-old took to Twitter to confirm he was backing Trump and praised the president for his stance on freedom of speech.

“My Vote is for what makes this country great, freedom of speech & religion, 2nd Amnd, hard working tax paying citizens, police & military,” Favre wrote.

“In this election, we have freedom of choice, which all should respect. For me & these principles, my Vote is for @RealDonaldTrump.”

Trump has had a touchy relationship with the NFL since he criticized Colin Kaepernick and other players who knelt during the National Anthem to protest police violence.

The NFL and its Players Association launched NFL Votes and #AthleteAndVoter initiatives in August to “encourage voter education, registration and activation,” and since then several clubs have registered all their players to vote.

Many current stars have spoken out against the president and the league announced that 90% of active players are now registered to vote.

The league has also said that half the teams are using their stadium facilities for “election-related activities,” including early voting or Election Day polling sites.



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