Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Chris Paul, speaking Monday on a Zoom call with high school basketball players as a part of Michelle Obama’s voting initiative, discussed the importance of voting in the 2020 presidential election and the power of collective action.
The call, which also featured Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and Minnesota Timberwolves guard Josh Okogie, was put on for rising seniors in Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League by When We All Vote, the former first lady’s nonpartisan organization whose mission is to “increase participation in every election and close the race and age voting gap by changing the culture around voting.”
Obama co-founded the organization in 2018 alongside actor Tom Hanks, Hamilton playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda, singers Janelle Monae, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, and Paul.
Paul, who will travel to Orlando, Florida, on July 8 with his teammates to resume the NBA season at Walt Disney World, told the group of about 150 players, coaches and families that he regularly comes across NBA players who tell him they don’t exercise their right to vote because, “Man, my vote don’t matter.” But the 35-year-old point guard stresses, whether to those NBA players or his 11-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter, that power in this country derives from casting a ballot.
“I want you guys to understand more than ever that you really have a voice,” Paul told the players. “And that it matters.”
The national unrest following the May 25 death of George Floyd after being kneeled on by a white police officer is an example of why Paul believes in the influence of voting. Protests in Minneapolis, where Floyd was murdered, led to the firing of all the officers involved and a proposal to disband the Minneapolis police department.
“When it’s one person out there [protesting] it’s real easy for them to tell them to get on,” he said. “But the more people there are … it’s real strength in numbers.”
Paul said he uses his platform for social and voting issues because he’s tired of accepting America as it is rather than what it can be.
“The reason why I’m passionate and why I’m involved in a lot of this stuff is because I do want to see different for my kids. I don’t want it to be the status quo or the same.”
Tatum, 22, voted for the first time in 2016 when he was a freshman at Duke University. Because he was registered in his hometown of St. Louis, Tatum voted absentee; he’s never been inside a physical booth.
The third-year forward said he was one of the players who didn’t think his vote mattered, but over the years he’s learned that voting has a direct impact on the direction the country takes.
“As I’ve gotten older and as the world has changed, it’s allowed me to grow up and learn, and want to learn,” Tatum said.
Okogie, like Tatum, voted for the first time in 2016 while a freshman at Georgia Tech. Now 21, Okogie said submitting that ballot changed his outlook.
“That was one of the first times I felt like a real adult,” Okogie said. “Putting my vote in and knowing that my vote matters.”