In an Election Unlike Any Other, Americans Pack Sports Stadiums to Vote
With Americans sharply divided into red and blue teams, it seems like politics has replaced a more benign form of American rivalry: sports.
For months, stadiums and arenas across the country have lain largely empty and silent, as the coronavirus pandemic forced most teams to compete without fans in the stands. But, as election season approached, many of these stadiums opened their doors to voters instead of fans.
More than 40 sports venues were transformed into voting centers nationwide, some for early voting, some for election day voting, and some for back-office voting logistics. In Georgia, where some early voters waited more than 11 hours to vote, residents of Fulton County had 300 voting booths available at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, home of the Atlanta Hawks. In Los Angeles, almost every major sports arena was transformed into voting stations, including the Staples Center, Dodger Stadium, SoFi Stadium, the Rose Bowl, and more. In Boston, voters lined up in Red Sox jerseys to cast their ballot at Fenway Park.
The push to use sports arenas as voting centers began with National Basketball Association players, who encouraged the league to do more for social justice in the wake of the May killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests. In July, three NBA teams, including the Hawks, the Detroit Pistons and the Milwaukee Bucks, agreed to use their facilities as polling stations. In late August, the Bucks went on strike, refusing to play in a scheduled game against Orlando, to bring attention to the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.
After 48 hours, the strike resulted in a deal where the NBA promised to support a range of social justice issues, including allowing its facilities to be used as voting sites, according to a statement the league issued.
By then, the idea had taken hold and all of the major sports leagues — Major League Baseball, the NBA, National Football League and the National Hockey League — had made some of their facilities available for Americans to show up for their (political) team.