The NBA Won’t Schedule Any Election Day Games This Year

The National Basketball Association (NBA) will not schedule any games on Election Day this season, in hopes that the move will encourage staff and fans to vote in this year’s midterm races.

“The scheduling decision came out of the NBA family’s focus on promoting nonpartisan civic engagement and encouraging fans to make a plan to vote during midterm elections,” the league said in an official statement, one day prior to the release date for the entire NBA schedule.

In addition to not scheduling games for Tuesday, November 8 — the day on which all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs, along with 36 seats in the Senate — the NBA will also encourage teams to share information with fans about specific elections, including voter registration deadlines.

Every team in the league will also be playing on the day before Election Day in an event that is being billed as a “civic engagement night” to highlight the importance of voting.

Currently, there are only a few days each year when NBA teams don’t compete, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and the NCAA Division I basketball championship in the spring. For a professional sports league with 30 teams that each play 82 regular season games, ensuring that there are no games on Election Day is a major scheduling feat.

“It’s unusual. We don’t usually change the schedule for an external event,”James Cadogan, the Executive Director of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition, said to NBC News. “Voting and Election Day are obviously unique and very important to our democracy.”

Cadogan added:

If we do something that some might call a symbol, I would say that’s a good symbol. If we were talking about getting out, registering, voting, making your voice heard in whatever way you think is most important, those are symbols that I think most people can and would support.

The league plans to partner with cities where its teams play to use arenas and other facilities for election-related purposes — similar to what it did during the 2020 presidential election.

NBA teams didn’t play on Election Day in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many players and teams used the cancellation of games to encourage people to vote, and some arenas were used as registration and/or voting centers.

In the six presidential and midterm election cycles preceding the COVID-19 pandemic, the league played an average of five games on Election Day each year, ESPN reported.

Midterm election years typically have a low turnout, but turnout may increase this time around due to the importance of this year’s races.

Voter turnout in the 2014 midterm was around 36.7 percent. In the 2018 midterm, turnout reached 50 percent, the highest rate seen in a non-presidential election in over a century.

Recent presidential elections have had much higher voter participation; in 2016, for example, 55.7 percent of Americans voted, while in 2020 66.8 percent of Americans turned out to cast a ballot in the presidential race.

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