It's time, once again, to exercise our fundamental right to vote. This is a midterm election year, and the NFL is committed to using its platform and facilities to support this essential element of democracy.
The NFL Votes initiative was founded as a joint effort between the league and the NFL Players Association in August 2020, just ahead of that year's presidential election. The campaign is a league-wide nonpartisan initiative that supports and encourages civic engagement among NFL players and legends, club and league personnel, and fans.
Before NFL Votes was launched, many (including myself) urged the NFL and other leagues to get more involved in the election process, to use stadiums and arenas for election support and to actively advocate for all citizens to exercise their right. Credit the NFL for stepping up and using its platform for the cause.
The league's initiative focuses on three components of the electoral process: voter education, voter registration and voter activation. In 2020, half of the NFL's stadiums -- along with facilities from other sports leagues -- were used for election support in some capacity, whether assisting in early voting, ballot reception or Election Day voting. There was a great response to the initial effort in 2020 -- one that I'm certainly proud of, even if it was long overdue -- with more than 66,000 voters casting ballots at NFL sites.
It was a good start. In fact, a recent study led by a team of scholars -- people I worked with as a consultant for their research -- showed several positive findings:
- Over two-thirds of democrats, independents and republicans "strongly" or "somewhat" support stadium voting and very few members of any group oppose it.
- The use of stadiums reduced wait times for voters -- and election workers and poll workers reported having positive experiences at these venues.
- Team leadership from the NFL and other pro sports leagues reported "a positive reception from athletes, staff and fans," suggesting an advantage in fostering fan engagement with the teams involved.
Now, two years later, the NFL is in the same position to make a positive impact as we near the upcoming midterm elections. All NFL clubs are making themselves available to help with election-related activities if needed by local election officials. A few examples of how stadiums will be used:
- Bank of America Stadium (Charlotte, N.C.): early voting site.
- Empower Field at Mile High (Denver): early voting site (including the services of a mobile voter unit on Nov. 4-5) and Election Day voting site.
- Lincoln Financial Field (Philadelphia): mail-in ballot drop-off site on Oct. 28 and Nov. 6.
- Lumen Field (Seattle): voter registration and ballot drop-off site.
- Levi's Stadium (Santa Clara, Calif.): early voting and Election Day voting site.
- TIAA Bank Field (Jacksonville, Fla.): ballot drop-off location from Oct. 6 through Nov. 1.
For this election, the NFL has also expanded its efforts. As part of the NFL Votes initiative, the league announced in July a partnership with 15 veteran and military service organizations and four civic groups to create Vet The Vote, a pro-democracy, non-partisan coalition whose goal is to recruit 100,000 veterans and family members to serve as new poll workers to help administer the 2022 midterms. Such new recruits will help address a national poll worker shortage, which has resulted in longer wait times for voters and a decrease in the number of polling locations.
As of Sept. 28, the Vet the Vote Coalition had recruited over 60,000 poll workers for the election. Shortly thereafter, the league launched a new PSA in an effort to help spread the word, with former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera joining in.
Through its election support, the league has undoubtedly inspired members of the NFL family to perform this civic duty. Again, this is not a partisan issue. My support for NFL Votes -- and belief in the fundamental right to vote, as well as fair access to the ballot -- is grounded in equity and equality. There is still a long way to go, but it's great to see progress.