MLS, Black Players for Change launch league-wide voting initiative ahead of U.S. election

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Major League Soccer is the latest American-based sports league to launch a voting initiative ahead of November’s presidential election.

MLS, is players association and the Black Players for Change coalition announced the plan, dubbed MLS Unites to Vote, on Thursday. The non-partisan effort is designed to help MLS players, staff and fans register and vote in the upcoming general election.

“Participation in local and national elections is one of the most important responsibilities we have as citizens,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a press release. “Major League Soccer and our players recognize the opportunity we have to leverage our platform to amplify the importance of voting. We hope to inspire MLS fans and the entire soccer community to educate themselves about the voting process, register to vote, and vote on Election Day.”

FRISCO, TX - AUGUST 16: An official MLS soccer ball waits on a stand during the game between the FC Dallas and the Nashville SC on August 16, 2020 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
MLS is the latest American-based sports league leveraging its platform to encourage U.S. citizens to vote in November's election. (Matthew Pearce/Getty Images)

To that end, the league’s Manhattan headquarters as well as front offices and training facilities operated by the 26 MLS teams will be closed Nov. 3 so that employees can go to the polls.

Some individual MLS clubs also announced their own plans in the lead up to Election Day. Atlanta United will register its 11 eligible players by next week. LAFC’s stadium is a registered polling location for the general election, as is the venue the Seattle Sounders share with the NFL’s Seahawks. Minnesota United’s home will be the main ballet drop-off point in that state’s second-largest county.

Last month, the NBA and its players union said that that league’s arenas would be used as polling stations across the country, an agreement that was reached after a brief “wildcat” strike that resulted in the postponement of several NBA playoff games. Meantime, the NCAA announced Wednesday that Division 1 college athletes would be given Election Day off to make it easier for them to vote.

“By standing up as strong champions for nonpartisan civic participation, professional sports leagues, teams and players are helping to create a future where voting is celebrated and all Americans make their voices heard,” said Steven Levine, the director of Civic Alliance, a nonpartisan network of more than 200 companies, including MLS, that encourages voter participation.

Black Players for Change, created in June amid the social unrest that gripped the country in the wake of unarmed African-American man George Floyd’s murder while in police custody in Minnesota, was instrumental in shaping MLS’s idea. In its discussions with league owners and executives, the BPC homed in on voter registration as a key part of their effort to bring about societal change.

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