‘Leading by example’: LeBron James and NBA boost voter rights

New Cleveland resident Steven Catudal was eager to register to vote in his adopted state of Ohio. He found an unlikely ally to thank for smoothing that process during a turbulent election year: basketball superstar LeBron James.

The NBA legend has emerged as the most high-profile promoter of US civic engagement in all of sports.

And his encouragement of Americans — particularly in minority communities — to express their power through voting has the potential to impact November’s election.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Catudal, a 23-year-old business consultant, told AFP after filling out voter registration and change-of-address forms at one of several booths set up in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ arena.

“These pro athletes are role models to people all around the US and the world,” he said, and “they’re leading by example” in important get-out-the-vote efforts.

“To have those franchises, those athletes, going out and pushing younger voters and everyone to come vote, and kind of help shape the future of… the United States is really big.”

The event in Cleveland, supported by government and civic groups, registered more than 700 people in person or online and proved a highlight of National Voter Registration Day last Tuesday.

LeBron’s home state Ohio is a critical bellwether; President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden will be squaring off there in their first presidential debate Tuesday, in Cleveland. (AFP | Michael Mathes)