“I am virtually walking out of the office in opposition to systemic racism and police brutality in this country in solidarity with our N.B.A. and W.N.B.A. players,” an automatic email response from one of those employees said. “I will not be responding to any work emails. Instead, I will be taking the day to contact state and local officials to demand justice for Jacob Blake and for the police officers involved to be held accountable.”
The N.B.A. and its union’s plan also includes, according to the announcement, the creation of “a social justice coalition, with representatives from players, coaches and governors, that will be focused on a broad range of issues, including increasing access to voting, promoting civic engagement, and advocating for meaningful police and criminal justice reform.”
The plan to use arenas as polling places only applies where the arenas are controlled by N.B.A. team owners, who agreed to work with local officials to make it happen. In places where the deadline to do so had passed, the owners planned to work with officials to convert the arenas, which have been largely unused during the coronavirus pandemic, into outlets for other election-related activities, such as voter registration.
Establishing more polling locations was a key goal of More Than a Vote, the initiative by the Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James and other athletes to protect voting rights and increase civic engagement, particularly among Black people. In July, the Bucks offered Fiserv Forum as a polling location, in partnership with the group led by James.
Some N.B.A. arenas, like the TD Garden in Boston and the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, are not owned outright by the N.B.A. team that plays in it, whereas Madison Square Garden, for example, is owned by James L. Dolan, the owner of the Knicks.
Some teams already have their own plans underway. In June, the Hawks announced an initiative in partnership with Fulton County to turn the State Farm Arena in Atlanta into an early voting polling location beginning July 20 for a primary runoff election, following a June primary that was marred with problems, such as exceptionally long lines. Last month, the Spectrum Center, home to the Charlotte Hornets, said it would welcome early voters from Oct. 15 to 31.
The Sacramento Kings said that the Golden 1 Center would be a voting site from Oct. 24 to Election Day, while the Cleveland Cavaliers this month announced a similar plan at the Rocket Mortgage Field House, but only for Election Day. (None of the Hawks, Hornets, Kings or Cavaliers own their home arenas outright.)