When you are a superstar on the scale of LeBron James it would be easy to sit back and count up the cash. Sure, you have a natural-born talent but you have also worked insanely hard to get to and maintain your position. The level of fitness, skill and resilience does not just come by itself. There are hours in the gym and on the track, doing drills and lifting weights. The diet has to be honed and there are sacrifices, with time away from family as you are on the road.

However, there is a privilege that comes with playing at the top level in the NBA. You have wealthy and the adoration of millions. You also have the ear of people who need guidance and positive influence. Therefore, being a star on the level of James comes with responsibility. And we are not disappointed by his efforts, as he continues to work hard to give back to the world. Many of the LA Lakers have been hitting the news for their positive work during the downtime of the pandemic. These people of influence are really stepping forward.

James’ battle

LeBron James has been at the centre of the fight for social equality his entire career. He has a long list of actions on his CV right back from when he was working for equality in his hometown in Ohio – as he worked with at-risk kids in the area. Therefore, his lead on this during the hiatus has been vital. With the upsurge of protests due to Black Lives Matters and police brutality, the voice of James has been crucial.

2020 is also an election year in the US. Therefore, the one way to ensure equality in representation in the highest offices of the country is by addressing voter suppression. James has launched a campaign called “More than a vote” and encouraged several star athletes to join the fight, including Jeffrey Okudah, Maria Taylor, Jason Heyward, Maria Taylor and A’ja Wilson. This is just a few of those stars tagged in Lebron James’ launch Tweet. 

Why do we need More Than a Vote?

The More Than a Vote Instagram page has been launched and within a matter of days had over 8000 followers. The Twitter handle was launched and the scheme was joined by Chiefs superstar Mahomes. The Instagram page offers a summary of the aims of the scheme:

“We are Black athletes and artists working together. Our priority right now is combatting systematic, racist voter suppression by educating, energising and protecting our community in 2020.”

But, why is there a need for such a group and such a mission? Well, according to research by Pew Research, only 59.6% of eligible black voters exercised this right to vote in the 2016 Presidential Election.

The facts about black voter suppression in the US are highly contended by politicians in some parts of the divide. ACLU has released facts about voter suppression that support LeBron’s contention that more needs to be done. ACLU claimed that after the record turnout in 2008 more than 30 states introduced voter suppression legislation. 16 states out of these 30 states passed the measures in 2011. The measures include barriers to voter registration, making it harder for Americans to participate. There have been blocks to early voting, meaning those that cannot make it on election day cannot vote. In Florida, a key swing state, 54% of African Americans voted at early voting sites.

However, out of all the voter suppression legislation that most impacts the black population, the Voter ID requirements place most limits on the number of minority groups that can cast their vote. While 1 in 10 Americans do not have the required government-issued photo ID, it is 1 in 4 of African Americans. Eight key states passed these ID laws in 2011, including Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Caroline, Tennessee, Wisconsin and, crucially, Texas. The argument is that such a law limits the possibility of voter fraud. However, it more likely prevents minority and low-income voters from exercising their right to bast a ballot. These are arguably the groups that deserve most representation in positions of power than less.

LeBron on Voter Suppression

James has asked the question: how do we fix this? LeBron James has been a long advocate of equality but he is emerging as an activist in this tough area of the disenfranchisement of the black voter. For years, he has been positioning himself as a leader in this area – but his voice is arguably never more important than in an election year.

James’ first act, along with his business partner Maverick Carter, is to provide the funding for the organisation More Than a Vote. It is being set up as a nonprofit organisation, therefore it does not allow this group to advocate for any candidate specifically. Consequently, this is not a partisan move, more a hope that the group can give freedom of choice to those who want to vote.

It seems that James was motivated to act after voters had to endure three-hour-long waits due to broken voting machines and lack of poll workers. It just happened that these problems impacted African American voters – and for Lebron this was unacceptable. If all James does is use his 66.1 million Instagram Followers or his 46.4 million Twitter followers, then this would be a substantial impact alone. We suspect he will not stop at posting comments and giving money. We will wait to see what the year brings.