Athlete Influences over the Election

Written by: Scott 

Edited by: Lucas

Visual by: Anushka 

  Politics and sports don’t often mix, however, athletes from various sports leagues used their platforms to influence their fans concerning the recent US election. While this topic may be controversial, as all eyes turned back to sports after the pause caused by the pandemic, athletes embraced their media attention and the numbers that reveal the influence.  

The question of whether or not politics and sports should blend is debatable. Many avid sports fans have voiced their desire to not be politically influenced by their sporting idols. One such example of this desire is the motto, “shut up and dribble” which has been targeted at NBA athletes during their advocacy leading up to the election. Lebron James, an NBA athlete who has taken full advantage of his widespread platform, is a firm believer in letting athletes use their voice. In an interview with ESPN, James explains how “athletes have power beyond their sports,”(ESPN+) power to voice their opinions and influence their fans. Looking at how this influence occurs, we focus on Lebron James’ specific influence on this year’s presidential election. 

From sporadic tweets to the founding of a voting foundation, Lebron has clearly left his mark on the election. Having media attention and funding certainly helps the athletes who decide to use their stage for political activism. Whether it was athletes on national television telling citizens that their votes mattered, or foundations started to encourage minorities or people who may not be as educated in politics to vote, athletes from NBA, NFL, and the MLB were influential this year. For example, the More than a Vote Organization was founded by Lebron James in early 2020 and was sponsored by many other athletes including Patrick Mahomes and Odell Beckham Jr. from the NFL. The foundation’s focus was to educate minority populations in the United States on their voting rights. This year, Lebron was the third highest voter influencer (Philip DeFranco Show meaning that a large quantity of American voters who did not originally plan to go out and vote did so at the hand of Lebron’s influence. 

Another sports league with a huge influence was the NFL, specifically the Seattle Seahawks organization. The Seattle Seahawks, sponsored by the NFL, released a commercial advertising the necessity to go and vote. The commercial described the vote as a football game discussing the need for full energy through four quarters. From Russell Wilson, an MVP candidate, to Pete Carroll, a highly respected coach, the entire Seattle Seahawks endorsed the advertisement, “Last election, only 60% of eligible American citizens went out and voted, I don’t only play 60% of the game, I don’t only put 60% effort, we fight the whole game. America go and vote and be a part of the whole.” (NFL). This political activism made for in-game and pregame ads to be shown to the large NFL fan base who sit down every Sunday and listen to their beloved coaches and players.
In an age where the stages are bigger than ever for America’s most influential athletes on social media, national television, and news sites, those stages were embraced and used to influence citizens concerning the 2020 presidential election.