Biden will become the 46th president of the United States, and Kamala Harris will become the first Black woman and the first woman of South Asian descent to serve as vice president, because Black voters overwhelmingly favored the Democratic ticket.
It was fitting that Black athletes were so essential to this victory. President Donald Trump and some sports fans often complain when Black athletes refuse to stick to sports. Yet the election is a clear demonstration of why athletes should use their public platform to advocate for justice and democracy. Trump’s loss doesn’t mean the inequities facing Black Americans will vanish, but Black athletes have positioned themselves to be a prominent voice in addressing the issues that affect their community.
Read: The insidious logic of ‘stick to sports’
By the time the NBA resumed its season in a coronavirus-free bubble in Florida this summer, the presidential campaign was well under way. Players and coaches consistently sent the message about the importance of voting, either by saying so in public statements or by wearing T-shirts and masks that encouraged people to vote. NBA players, along with the Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce, successfully pushed pro basketball to turn its arenas and practice facilities into voting centers. This accommodation may have proved pivotal in places such as Atlanta and Detroit, where high Black turnout helped gift-wrap Michigan and perhaps Georgia for Biden.
If the Democrats are ultimately able to gain control of the Senate, the party will owe a debt of gratitude to the WNBA for bolstering the party’s prospects in a key Georgia Senate race. WNBA players took a courageous stance against Senator Kelly Loeffler, a Georgia Republican who is a co-owner of the league’s Atlanta Dream. Loeffler sent a letter to WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert criticizing players for being outspoken about the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and chastising the league for supporting the Black Lives Matter movement as well as the Say Her Name campaign honoring Taylor. Loeffler also said the league should force the players to put the American flag on their jerseys, because it would be a “rallying point for the American people.”
In response, the players publicly threw their support behind one of her Democratic opponents, Reverend Raphael Warnock. At the time, he was polling at 9 percent in a crowded field. When the players wore VOTE WARNOCK T-shirts to their nationally televised games, they helped anoint him as the Democrats’ best hope to pick up Loeffler’s seat. Warnock went on to raise $12.9 million from July to September. Now Loeffler faces Warnock in a runoff election in January.
The biggest blows to Trump’s reelection campaign were delivered by the people he’d wronged. Trump bashed Philadelphia, Detroit, and other majority-Black cities throughout his presidency, and those cities were central to his defeat. Trump also spent a lot of his presidency attacking Black athletes. He questioned James’s intelligence. After several members of the Golden State Warriors expressed their reluctance to visit the White House following their 2017 NBA championship run, the president withdrew the invitation. He called NFL players “sons of bitches” for protesting during the national anthem. (Not all of the athletes he disdained were Black men; he never hosted a female professional championship team at the White House.)