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LeBron James forming group to protect Black voting rights

Lakers forward LeBron James sits out a game last season.
Lakers star LeBron James will again help fight for social justice through a new group that he is forming to fight for protection of Black voting rights.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, LeBron James was angry. He showed it publicly through his social media posts.

Behind the scenes, he was trying to figure out how to combine that rage he felt over Floyd, a Black man who was killed after a white police officer knelt on his neck, and his platform. He decided to spearhead a voting rights organization led by athletes and entertainers connected to communities where they want to combat voter suppression and support Black voters, a person familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly confirmed.

“Because of everything that’s going on, people are finally starting to listen to us — we feel like we’re finally getting a foot in the door,” James said Wednesday, according to the New York Times. “How long is up to us. We don’t know. But we feel like we’re getting some ears and some attention, and this is the time for us to finally make a difference.”

The group will be called More than a Vote, a twist on “More than an Athlete,” which is the slogan that accompanies James’ digital media platform, Uninterrupted.

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On Monday, the Lakers star got on the phone with a group of athletes to discuss the idea. The group included former NBA players Stephen Jackson, who was close to Floyd, Kendrick Perkins, Udonis Haslem and Jalen Rose, WNBA players Skylar Diggins-Smith and Chiney Ogwumike, NBA players Draymond Green, Eric Bledsoe and Trae Young, and NFL player Alvin Kamara.

The call lasted 45 minutes and included an enthusiastic discussion of the issues, with impassioned words from Green, Jackson and Perkins, according to the person familiar with the situation. They’ve also got commitments from comedian Kevin Hart and rapper Bun B to join their efforts.

The initial investment for the organization will come from James, his business partner Maverick Carter, music industry executive Jimmy Iovine, and James’ investment advisor Paul Wachter. Among the group’s advisors are Adam Mendelsohn, James’ longtime media advisor and a former political strategist who worked for Arnold Schwarzenegger while he was governor of California, and Addisu Demissie, who managed Cory Booker’s presidential campaign and is advising Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

More than a Vote will be a 501(c)(4) organization, which will allow the organization to support political causes.

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James’ organization plans to target states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Texas to fight against voter suppression.

“Yes, we want you to go out and vote, but we’re also going to give you the tutorial,” James said, according to the New York Times. “We’re going to give you the background of how to vote and what they’re trying to do, the other side, to stop you from voting.”

They also plan to work with existing voting rights groups such as Fair Fight, which was started by Georgia politician Stacey Abrams, and When We All Vote, which was launched by former First Lady Michelle Obama. They’ve begun contacting officials in different states, including Michigan’s secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson.


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