Despite the uncertainty concerning many details of their upcoming sports seasons, UNC athletes are still finding a way to make their mark. This fall, an athlete-led voter initiative is working toward 100 percent voter registration among eligible athletes on UNC's 28 varsity sports teams.
The project — led by college athletes and Department of Athletics staff members — is organizing a voter registration drive, as many of these athletes prepare to vote in a nationwide election for the first time. The athlete voter project's goal is meant to allow UNC’s athletes to uphold the University’s commitment to "educate, engage and empower."
Following nationwide protests for racial justice in recent months, the Student-Athlete Advisory Council decided on a “really strong voter push,” Council President and UNC women's soccer player Rachel Jones told The Daily Tar Heel.
Brandon Tubby, a senior on the track and field team, echoed Jones' sentiment.
“The athletic department was really empowering athletes on every team to take a leadership role and getting them to vote,” Tubby said. "There's been a lot of enthusiasm and great follow-through."
The efforts by the athletic department staff are not unmatched by players working on the initiative. Currently, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams have 100 percent of their eligible players registered to vote, and women’s soccer and track and field are headed in that direction.
“We take our civic duties very seriously — we’re a politically involved team,” Tubby said about the track team.
This success is also due in part to support from coaches, who have been helping to hand out voter registration forms and attended the University’s Black Lives Matter protest with their teams on Aug. 29.
Jenn Townsend, associate director for the academic support program and the project’s main organizer, said she is hopeful the initiative will help college athletes realize that they’re citizens and that their voice matters.
“These are students who have been impacted a lot by the current environment and want to use their voice, and voting is a way to do that,” Townsend said.
Jones said she shares these same hopes, and that she wants the project to set a standard for UNC Athletics with voting.
Election Day is Nov. 3, and some UNC athletes noted the importance of turning out to vote. Jones said she wants young adults to show up on election day and encourage others in their community to do the same.
“I don’t think it’s going to be the easiest election to vote in,” Jones said. "I hope that these people become life-long voters."
Townsend highlighted the importance of students being aware of voting deadlines and having both a plan and back-up plan for voting. She said she hopes that through this project, they will realize voting is cool.
"It's such a special right and a gift and we have to use this opportunity," Tubby said. "It's like crossing the finish line for the political process."
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