By Hunter Doyle

Only 56 percent of eligible voters in the United States turned out to vote in the 2016 election according to Pew Research. This is a number that the National Football League (NFL) hopes will change in this year’s election. 2020 has been a year to remember and not necessarily one that Americans want to remember.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been at the forefront of everyone’s minds as well as social justice issues. The Black Lives Matter movement received more national attention when videos surfaced of the George Floyd arrest and killing. This sparked a nationwide reaction and push for change.

Sports and politics have often been kept separate but athletes are using their platforms to bring attention to these issues. The NFL is joining them by launching ‘NFL Votes’. Commissioner Roger Goodell wants everyone to come out to the polls this year:

“We’re launching NFL Votes to inspire everyone in the NFL family — including fans — to participate in the civic process by getting registered to vote and ultimately exercising their right to vote”. 

This program comes years after Colin Kaepernick began to kneel during the national anthem. He decided to express his desire for police reform in 2016. Other players began kneeling during the anthem as well throughout the season. In 2018, Commissioner Goodell put a policy in place. It required players to either stand during the anthem or stay in the locker room. 

In response to the George Floyd killing and nationwide protests, Goodell apologized for the way they previously handled the National Anthem protests. He admitted that they should have listened and supported them better. Now, he is encouraging players to speak out and use their voices to empower change. 

Seattle Seahawks Cornerback Shaquill Griffin is one of the leading voices for NFL Votes and said on that he wants to use his platform to express that we are all “people who can really make change”.

One of the ways the NFL feels that can be accomplished is by encouraging people to vote. As a result, they has partnered with Rock the Vote, RISE to Vote and I Am a Voter to educate those in the NFL family so that they can encourage their own communities to vote.

One of the main focuses of ‘NFL Votes’ is to create a diverse community of voters. According to Brookings, “in 2016, voter turnout for Blacks dipped to 59.6%”, whites were at 65.3%, Asians were at 49.3%, and Hispanics came in at 47.6%”. 

Diversity can also mean gaining the votes of people of different genders and ages.  On August 26th, the NFL celebrated the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. They also have statistics on their website about the age groups of voters. According to Fair Vote, “from 1972 to 2012, citizens 18-29 years old turned out at a rate of 15 to 20 points lower than citizens 30 years and older.”

16 NFL teams have made their stadiums available as voting sites. Most teams are located in big cities which makes it easier for people to vote since they can use public transportation nearby as Dr. Jonathan Metzl pointed out to ESPN.

The NFL is also shutting down league facilities on election day so that employees around the league can vote. People can visit to learn more about why the NFL feels this is important.