College Athletes, Phones in Hand, Force Shift in Protest Movement

“Many of our teammates,” the statement said, “are inconsolable as yet another Black life has been taken at the hands of law enforcement and injustice.” They announced a push to promote voter registration and to take people to the polls in November.

In wanting action — and not just words “where it’s one time, we put it out and forget it,” as Locksley said — the Maryland players are not unique. Some, like Florida State’s Wilson and his teammates, have grand ambitions in their community. Others, like athletes at Wisconsin, asked administrators and coaches to review hiring practices and provided reading and movie lists on topics of racial injustice.

The most elementary step gaining traction has been simple: to vote.

When Georgia Tech’s men’s basketball team gathered over Zoom, each participant was asked to express his emotions in two words. Players described being “frustrated,” “angry” and “tired.” The two words for Eric Reveno, a 54-year-old white assistant coach, were “embarrassed” and “disgusted.”

That night, Reveno stewed on something that Malachi Rice, one of the team’s leaders, had said: that too many people protest injustice but do not bother to vote.

Reveno woke up the next morning with an idea: that the N.C.A.A. should ban athletic activities on Election Day to encourage its more than 460,000 athletes to vote.

No practice, no meetings, no games.

The idea has gained support from influential coaches including Gonzaga’s Mark Few and Texas Christian’s Jamie Dixon, who is the president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. U.C.L.A. announced voter education sessions for all 25 of its teams, and Georgia Tech said nine of its in-season teams, including football, would not hold mandatory activities on Election Day.

Reveno said support with words was “not enough.”

“We teach them financial literacy — the power of interest over time, the dangers of credit card debt, about how much that daily latte is costing them,” Reveno said. “What about investing in your community so that your kid’s life is shaped more the way you wanted? Being an engaged and active citizen is the most powerful thing we do as an American.”

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