Heat not happy with Miami officials after bid to make arena a voting site is rejected

The NBA playoffs are currently underway, and part of the reason that is still happening is a pledge from teams to allow their arenas to be used as a voting sites in the upcoming election.

The Miami Heat clearly intended to fulfill that pledge, and had actually petitioned for the use of AmericanAirlines Arena as a voting site more than a month earlier.

Apparently, those plans have fallen through.

Heat say officials misled them about using arena as voting site

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 08: A general view of the AmericanAirlines Arena is seen on May 08, 2020 in Miami Florida. According to reports the Miami Heat are looking to possibly reopen their facilities at the arena on May 11.  (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)
AmericanAirlines Arena will not be a voting site in this year's election. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

The Heat made their displeasure known by releasing a pointed statement on Friday. In the statement, the team revealed that instead of AmericanAirlines Arena, the city of Miami would be using the Frost Science Museum — within walking distance of the arena — as a polling place.

The statement also claimed that local officials had given the impression that approval for the arena was imminent, and that no explanation was given for the reversal. It even alluded to “forces involved in making the decision” that wanted to silence the Heat’s voice.

The full statement:

On Juneteenth, the Miami HEAT made a long-term pledge to help advance the cause of social justice. Part of our pledge was to use our platform to encourage people to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Additionally, we joined our counterparts in NBA cities around the country by exploring using AmericanAirlines Arena as a voting site.

For months, we discussed the possibility with local elections officials knowing we could help make the voting process open, accessible, safe and even exciting. After all, our facility has a storied history of attracting and serving our friends and neighbors across Miami-Dade County. We did a walk-through with them and were led to believe we would be receiving an agreement to solidify all that had been discussed and make it official, including a commitment to make the Arena available for the same purpose in future years.

Then today, we were informed that our Arena would not be designated a polling place, in favor of the Frost Science Museum. This decision was made and delivered without further explanation. NBA arenas all over the country, including just up the road in Orlando are getting approved as polling sites with little to no pushback. We were under the impression that approval was imminent.

To say we are disappointed is a huge understatement. The Arena is clearly a better site, with more visibility, more space, and more parking.

But to the extent that forces involved in making this decision think this will quiet our voice on the critical importance of voting, they should know that we will not be deterred.

The Miami HEAT stands with the NBA and NBPA in their efforts surrounding voting. We will continue to make our voices heard and encourage HEAT fans everywhere to vote.

The NBA’s players had refused to play games in the first round of the playoffs to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake. After a series of emotionally charged meetings, the players made their agreement with the league for the voting sites, as well as a social justice coalition and ads in support of voting and civil engagement.

Soon, several teams were announcing plans to set up voting sites at their arenas, but it appears the Heat will not be joining them.

Miami: Museum was simply better site

Per Doug Hanks of The Miami Herald, elections officials justified the decision to use the Frost Science Museum by citing the inability to use AmericanAirlines Arena for early voting in the future due to the NBA season and the museum’s Metromover station.

The office in charge of the decision on polling places is the Miami-Dade County supervisor of elections, currently held by Christina White and appointed by county mayor Carlos Giménez. Last month, Giménez won the Republican nomination for the House of Representatives seat in Florida's 26th congressional district. He will face incumbent Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in November.

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