LeBron James and a Multimillion-Dollar Push for More Poll Workers

LeBron James and a Multimillion-Dollar Push for More Poll Workers

More Than a Vote, a collective of athletes headlined by LeBron James that is fighting to combat voter suppression, will announce a multimillion-dollar initiative to increase the number of poll workers in Black electoral districts ahead of November’s general election.

The project, a collaboration with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, aims to recruit young people to serve at polling locations in Black communities in swing states, including Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida and Ohio. The effort will involve poll worker recruitment, a paid advertising campaign and a corporate partnership program that will encourage employees to volunteer as poll workers.

Election officials throughout the country have reported a shortage of poll workers to staff in-person voting sites amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has upended every facet of American life — including the electoral process.

In April, Wisconsin, one of the first states to hold a primary election after the virus spread nationally, had to cut in-person locations in Milwaukee to five from 180 because of poll worker shortages. Experts said the closures had a particular effect in Black communities, where access to in-person polling locations is already under threat. Residents in line waited for more than four hours, and many complained about not receiving a mail-in ballot after requesting one.

The national outcry after the Wisconsin primary left a lasting impression on the group of athletes, which formed More Than a Vote in June in the wake of a national outcry against ongoing racism.

Mr. James and several other basketball stars involved in the More Than a Vote effort are currently quarantined at the N.B.A. campus in Orlando, as the league seeks to finish its season and crown a champion. In a phone interview, two other members of the initiative — Michael Vick, the former N.F.L. star, and Renee Montgomery of the W.N.B.A. — framed the efforts as necessary to ensure equitable ballot access.

“As someone who had their voting rights restored,” said Mr. Vick, whose record-setting career was sunk after he pleaded guilty to a felony charge in 2007 for his involvement in a dogfighting ring, “I want to influence younger people to be a part of this More Than a Vote campaign.”

“We want to get them to register, get involved and try to help society in whatever way they can,” he added. “It’s about becoming a leader in your own right.”

Ms. Montgomery, who plays for the Atlanta Dream, is currently sitting out the women’s basketball season to focus on political activism. She is a former college national champion and W.N.B.A. champion with the Minnesota Lynx.

“I felt like I needed to do something in my community,” Ms. Montgomery said. “We can’t just protest. We have a responsibility to take those protests and take that energy and march all the way to the polls.”

“I live in Atlanta, so this issue is right on my front door,” she added. “We have the long lines, it’s condensed and Covid is being used as a way to have voter suppression.”

This is More Than a Vote’s second national campaign. Previous efforts included partnerships with teams in Los Angeles and Atlanta to turn their stadiums into polling places, as well as a statewide effort in Florida to help the formerly incarcerated restore their voting rights.

This year, athletes across the country — and particularly Black athletes — have seen a surge in political activism mirroring the national wave. Mr. Vick credited people like Mr. James and Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who knelt during the national anthem to protest racism, for making political advocacy a

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Ranking Every NBA Draft Class from 2000-2010

Ranking Every NBA Draft Class from 2000-2010

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    Jennifer Pottheiser/Getty Images

    NBA draft classes are not created equally.

    Some spawn their own constellation of basketball stars. Others don’t send a single hooper into orbit.

    Most, of course, land somewhere between those extremes, but even then, there are differences between them.

    We’re here to dissect those differences and rank each draft class from 2000 to 2010. Stars dominate this discussion—just like they dominate the league—but depth plays a part, too. Longevity matters, but so do player peaks.

    Ultimately, we’re out to discover the drafts that featured the best players and made the biggest imprints on the Association.

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    Gary Dineen/Getty Images

    If win shares is your preferred all-encompassing measure of success, then Hedo Turkoglu stands as the top player taken in this draft. Yes, as in zero-time All-Star Hedo Turkoglu, who started a pinch more than half of his games, never averaged 20 points (or six assists or six rebounds) and produced below-average player efficiency ratings in 12 of his 15 NBA seasons.

    That was the best this draft could do.

    Three players made an All-Star appearance (Kenyon Martin, Michael Redd and Jamaal Magloire), but none was invited back for a second. Redd was the draft’s only player to average more than 15 points. Jamal Crawford ranked second in scoring despite shooting just 41 percent from the field.

    Seven players from this entire draft topped 30 career win shares. Every other talent grab on this list had at least 10.

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    Joe Murphy/Getty Images

    Dajuan Wagner had a 100-point game in high school and a nightly scoring average north of 21 points during his lone season of college ball. He scored at least 25 points in four of his first six NBA contests. But injuries and illness limited him to just 103 career appearances.

    And yet, he doesn’t even make the top three what-if rankings from this draft.

    What if top pick Yao Ming could have avoided the foot problems that forced him into early retirement? What if No. 2 pick Jay Williams wasn’t involved in a career-ending motorcycle accident after his rookie season? What if Amar’e Stoudemire, the top pick in our re-draft series, hadn’t been slowed and ultimately derailed by knee, back and eye injuries?

    It could have looked a lot better in hindsight, but now, it underwhelms in depth and star power. It produced four All-Stars (Yao, Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer and Caron Butler), but Stoudemire had the only All-NBA first-team honor among them. Seven of the top 20 picks played four NBA seasons or fewer.

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    Fernando Medina/Getty Images

    The Association collectively embraced a high-risk, high-reward mentality for the 2004 draft, and given its modest ranking, you can probably deduce how that went.

    The college ranks were relatively ignored in this selection process. Nine of the first 20 picks arrived via preps-to-pros leaps or from overseas. That includes No. 1 pick Dwight Howard, plus fellow lottery choices Shaun Livingston, Andris Biedrins, Robert Swift and Sebastian Telfair.

    Howard is by far the biggest difference-maker in this class, which he leads in points, rebounds and win shares (133.9). The three-time Defensive Player of the Year carried the Orlando Magic to 2009 NBA Finals, and he enjoyed a four-year run of All-NBA and All-Defensive first-team appearances.

    But this was about it for stars. Four other players made All-Star rosters (Luol Deng, Devin Harris, Andre Iguodala and Jameer Nelson), but Deng was the only two-time honoree. This class did have decent depth, though, with players like Kevin Martin, Al Jefferson, Ben Gordon, Tony Allen and Trevor Ariza filling either complementary roles on good teams or featured roles on not-so-good ones.

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    Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

    The 2005 draft delivered the NBA’s point god. It just wasn’t immediately clear which floor general deserved the label.

    Deron Williams and Chris Paul were taken with back-to-back picks (third and fourth, respectively) and then battled for the title of league’s best lead guard. History may not remember a real debate between them, but Williams kept it close (four-year run of 19.2 points and 10.5 assists per game) before injuries got the best of him.

    Paul is the class’ crown jewel and among the best players to pass through the Association in the last two decades. His 179.5 career win shares are the third-most anyone has collected since 2000.

    Paul has made 10 All-Star trips, Williams went three times and David Lee booked a pair. The other two All-Stars in this draft (Andrew Bynum and Danny Granger) each hit high peaks before being almost immediately knocked down by injuries. While we haven’t mentioned the top two picks yet, neither was a massive bust, as Andrew Bogut (first) and Marvin Williams (second) are among the eight players in this draft with 50-plus win shares.

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    Jennifer Pottheiser/Getty Images

    The 2010 draft was unofficially sponsored by John Calipari. A record five Kentucky Wildcats went in the first round—John Wall (No. 1), DeMarcus Cousins (5), Patrick Patterson (14), Eric Bledsoe (18) and Daniel Orton (29)—which give the skipper the ultimate recruiting pitch.

    “I’m not trying to be braggadocios, but if you’re a player with pro potential, where do you want to go?” Calipari said, per ESPN’s Andy Katz. “Not long ago it was Florida, and then it was Duke and then North Carolina. Right now it’s Kentucky.”

    Over time, though, this draft has been defined less by its Kentucky connections and more by its four All-Stars who share an unfortunate similarity: serious leg injuries. Paul George and Gordon Hayward have fully recovered from theirs, but the jury is still out on Wall and Cousins.

    This draft delivered a lot of solid-starter to reliable-reserve level bigs, like Derrick Favors, Hassan Whiteside, Greg Monroe, Ed Davis and Trevor Booker. It didn’t do nearly as well with guards, but Avery Bradley, Evan Turner and Lance Stephenson had their moments.

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    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    In perhaps a strangely timed nod to pyrotechnics, the 2006 talent grab started with a dumpster fire that nearly engulfed the entire top five. Four of the selections rank among the 10 worst of the lottery era at their respective draft slot by career win shares: No. 1 Andrea Bargnani (eighth-lowest), No. 3 Adam Morrison (lowest), No. 4 Tyrus Thomas (eighth) and No. 5 Shelden Williams (10th).

    But somehow, this brutal beginning didn’t knock the whole draft off course. It still produced talent—and stars—just from further down the board.

    Five All-Stars emerged from this draft, and they all made multiple trips. LaMarcus Aldridge is the clubhouse leader with seven, but Kyle Lowry is right behind with six. Paul Millsap and Rajon Rondo each made four All-Star trips, and Brandon Roy—who showed the highest ceiling in this class—went three times before his knees betrayed him and cut short what could have been a superstar-level career.

    The early misfires didn’t help with depth, as only a dozen players carved out decade-plus stays in the Association. But ace role players like JJ Redick, P.J. Tucker, Rudy Gay and Thabo Sefolosha give this draft some length.

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    253142Name/Associated Press

    The 2001 draft is arguably most famous—and certainly most infamous—for what happened at the top. The Washington Wizards, and then-team president Michael Jordan, made Kwame Brown the first-ever high school drafted with the No. 1 pick.

    The Wizards would love to have that one back. While Brown still worked his way to a 12-year career, h