Sports Arenas in the 2020 Election


Chloe Wong, Staff Writer

There are over 230 million eligible voters in America, and this year, approximately 161 million of that group voted in the 2020 election—a record unseen in the nation’s history. Accessible voting was a large contributor to this unprecedented turnout. Taking into account complications from the COVID-19 pandemic, officials previously feared that it would be difficult to find places where citizens could cast their votes without fear of contracting the virus.

Good voting locations call for open spaces, ample parking, strong internet, and the general ability to receive large numbers of people—it’s hard to find places like that in most cities. But it turns out that sports arenas were able to accommodate all of these requirements, and in this election, they were at the center of a voting process designed to be as safe and convenient as possible.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) was the first major sports league to offer their arenas as voting sites, following the controversial shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

According to USA Today, 24 NBA arenas were made available for voting activities, “including early voting, poll worker training locations, ballot-drop offs, non-partisan voter registration events, and Election Day voting.”

Many other sports leagues, including the National Football League (NFL), commandeered their arenas and training facilities for similar use.

But the idea of voting in a sports arena provides more than just convenience. Most arenas were shut down in early spring thanks to the pandemic, and since then, fans haven’t had many opportunities to go inside the places where they would have once been witness to thrilling plays and slam-dunks. And sports arenas have always naturally provided a sense of community—a place where, regardless of political beliefs, hundreds of people can come together to celebrate the all-American traditions of football, baseball, basketball, and more.

“This is a shining moment to have sports teams all over the country making a commitment to help people vote, because that’s the most important non-violent tool in our democracy,” Detroit Pistons Vice Chairman Arn Tellem said. “Sports teams bring people together from all backgrounds and at their best, inspire us and encourage us to unite.”

And vote they did: over 298,000 Americans cast their ballot at 40 different sports arenas around the country in 2020. In New Orleans’ Smoothie King Arena, for example, over 30,000 people were able to cast their votes at socially-distanced polling machines. While the use of sports venues as voting locations is likely to be a one-time solution, as an arena during election season would usually be occupied by games, concerts, or other large events, its efficacy is proven true by the turnout.

“To be able to create change in the building we work hard in is great to see,” Washington Wizards forward Admiral Schofield said. “We don’t just want to encourage voting for this year; we want to encourage voting for years to come.”


Photo courtesy of NBA.COM