NBA Social Justice Coalition vows to fight for voting rights

The coalition was formed in 2020 after the death of George Floyd.

January 18, 2022, 6:01 AM

As the fight for voting rights stalls in Congress, the NBA Social Justice Coalition continues its call for lawmakers to act urgently to protect the right to vote.

The NBA Social Justice Coalition was formed in 2020, after the death of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake. The group, which includes players, owners and staffers, has advocated for policy changes regarding voting rights, criminal justice, policing and justice reform, by reaching out to lawmakers in targeted efforts in Congress and state and local legislatures.

Over the past two years, the group has been active across the country and in Washington, D.C.

Voting rights were at the forefront for the NBA Social Justice Coalition in 2020. The NBA opened up 23 league facilities to help increase voting participation by using them as polling locations and voter registration locations.

PHOTO: Jan 13, 2022; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center/forward Karl-Anthony Towns (32) reacts to a foul call during the second half against the Memphis Grizzles at FedExForum.
Jan 13, 2022; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center/forward Karl-Anthony Towns (32) reacts to a foul call during the second half against the Memphis Grizzles at FedExForum.
Petre Thomas/USA TODAY Sports

In 2021, NBA all-star forward Karl Anthony Towns, from the Minnesota Timberwolves, Steve Ballmer, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, and Caron Butler, an assistant coach of the Miami Heat, held a virtual roundtable with Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. and Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., on the topic of policing reform.

Last year, the group publicly endorsed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, and pushed for the passage of the EQUAL Act, a bill that seeks to eliminate the federal differences in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine.

Privately, the group has also held several bipartisan meetings with lawmakers.

Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers told ABC News, fighting for equal rights "has been part of my life throughout my life."

PHOTO: MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 15: Head coach Doc Rivers of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts against the Miami Heat during the first half at FTX Arena on January 15, 2022 in Miami, Florida.
MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 15: Head coach Doc Rivers of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts against the Miami Heat during the first half at FTX Arena on January 15, 2022 in Miami, Florida.
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Born and raised in Chicago, Rivers, 60, grew up going to Operation Breadbasket, a 1960s era program that fought for jobs and services on behalf of the Black community.

Rivers was only three years old when the Voting Rights Act was signed into law in 1965 and stressed that Americans should not normalize the fight for voting rights.

"You should be able to vote and you should be fighting for everyone to be able to do it. And the more people you can get engaged in the fight to vote, which shouldn't be a fight anymore," he said.

The coach added, "we can't normalize it that for a long period of our history, and not just Black Americans, women, minorities, were kept out of the right the vote, which is literally the single most important thing about democracy being able to vote, and it's been attacked throughout my lifetime."

In August, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act passed in the House of Representatives. However, in the months since, the bill has stalled due to partisan gridlock.

PHOTO: John Lewis, Ralph Abernathy, Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Bunche, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Fred Shuttlesworth and others lead marchers as begin the Selma to Montgomery civil rights march from Brown's Chapel Church in Selma, Ala., March 21, 1965.
John Lewis, Ralph Abernathy, Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Bunche, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Fred Shuttlesworth and others lead marchers as begin the Selma to Montgomery civil rights march from Brown's Chapel Church in Selma, Ala., March 21, 1965.
William Lovelace/Getty Images, FILE

Rivers told ABC News, "this shouldn't be controversial ... This has nothing to do with color. This has to do with equal rights."

"It's been made hard for targeted groups throughout my lifetime to vote, and I don't care if you're Democrat or Republican, the one thing that everybody should be fighting for is not making it harder to vote, but making it easier for everyone to vote," Rivers said

When asked what he would say to lawmakers today on the issue of voting rights, he said he'd simply ask them to protect his right to vote.

"Can you protect my right to vote? Don't make it harder for me, or certain groups make it easier for all groups. Protect our rights, and we love using the Constitution. That is constitutional," he said.

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