LeBron James and Barack Obama will join forces at the last minute to encourage black Americans to participate in the November 3 presidential election, as polls indicate that an increasing number of black voters may support President Donald Trump.
James, who won a fourth NBA title earlier this month when the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in six games of the NBA finals, joined Obama for an interview to be released this week as part of the More Than A Vote campaign that James launched with former First Lady Michelle Obama.
The initiative, which was supported by several NBA players including Chris Paul, Draymond Green, Ben Simmons, Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Kyle Lowry, focuses on fighting misinformation directed at black voters and ensuring that black Americans are registered to vote before election day.
For the past four years, James has been an outspoken critic of Trump, but has recently hinted that ultimately, increasing black voter participation is more important to him than ensuring the election victory of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
“I define success by our people going out and voting,” James told the New York Times earlier this month.
“You know, there are so many statistics out there that you can see them every time. Who hasn’t voted? Which districts did not vote? Which communities did not vote? And a lot of that had to do with our black people. So we hope we can get them out and educate them so they understand how important this moment is.
The low turnout in the presidential election has been a longstanding issue. According to the U.S. Election Project, voter turnout in 18 presidential elections has exceeded 60 percent only eight times since the end of World War II, peaking at 63.8 percent in 1960.
With the exception of 2012, three of the last four presidential elections recorded a voter turnout of over 60 percent, peaking at 61.6 percent in 2008. While the pattern of voter disenfranchisement can be traced back to different demographic conditions in the country, the problem is particularly acute among young black Americans.
According to official figures, four years ago only 47 percent of black voters under the age of 30 eligible to vote cast their ballots, while voter turnout among the over-65s was over 70 percent.
In an interview with the New York Times, James suspected that the sense of disappointment in the black community was due to years of misinformation.
“We believe that blacks, our community, have been pushed away from our civic duty,” said the four-time MVP of the NBA finals. “We have been fed misinformation for many years.
And I’m in a position where I can educate people and through More Than a Vote I can educate people about the importance of this movement and the importance of their civic duty,” explained the four-time NBA MVP. Not only to empower themselves, but also to give something back to their community.
“This is something that is very close to our hearts – and it is something that is very close to my heart. I am happy and honored to have these athletes and these influencers and the people who want to get involved with me as well.
During his first term in office, Trump’s opponents have repeatedly criticized his stance on racial issues. The President was an outspoken critic of NFL, NBA and MLB players who knelt down during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racism, suggesting that they all did not respect the flag.
Trump went so far as to suggest that NFL owners should fire players who kneel during the anthem. He also criticized Black Lives Matter for its involvement in the protests against racial and social justice that have swept across the U.S. since May.
Conversely, the president has refused to condemn far-right groups like the Proud Boys or self-proclaimed vigilantes like Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who killed two people when he opened fire on protesters demanding justice after the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Despite his comments and the fact that black Americans are traditionally more inclined to vote for the Democratic Party, Trump has penetrated parts of the black electorate.
In July, an African American Research Collaborative Poll found that 35 percent of black Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 appreciate Trump’s strong personality, although they do not always agree with the president’s policies.
Among black voters aged 60 and over, the percentage dropped to 10 percent.
A UCLA Nationscape survey conducted last month found that 21 percent of black Americans between the ages of 18 and 44 supported Trump, compared to 10 percent four years ago.
Nationwide, the president lags behind Biden among non-white voters with 39 points, a significant lead but far less than the 53-point deficit he had with the same groups before the 2016 election.
Significantly, the UCLA nation picture indicated that Biden’s attitude among black voters did not change after he elected Senator Kamala Harris as president, the first black woman on the majority party’s electoral list.
The May Democratic candidate was accused of taking African-American voters for granted after he claimed: “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, you’re not black.
Even though the black vote is not as set in stone as Biden had hoped, the Democratic candidate retains a healthy lead in the polls, with the average of FiveThirtyEight in the national presidential polls giving him nearly 10 points ahead of Trump.