Patriots’ James White is Encouraging Youth to Vote

James White didn’t vote in the first election he could after he turned 18; it wasn’t until the following primary in 2016 when he first took advantage of his civic duty. Even then, White admits he was unaware of many of the names on the ballot and their accompanying platforms and stances on key issues.

Today, the New England Patriots running back is encouraging the youth of America not to repeat his missteps by educating themselves and one another on the politicians and policies as well as get out and make their voices heard in the 2020 election.

“I think it’s extremely important, especially with everything going on right now with the current climate—with the pandemic and social justice,” said White, 28. “Voting is a way to give everybody a voice, just by going to the polls and picking the right people you want in office.”

The three-time Super Bowl champion is joining other athletes, actors, musicians, celebrities and politicians as part of The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s Take Your Power Back livestream event this weekend (August 1-2), which is serving as a rallying cry for more than 1 million millennial and Gen Z students in the foundation’s network to flex their civic right to vote.

Other participants include singer/actor Amber Riley, three-time NBA champion Udonis Haslem, author/activist Blair Imani, actor/director Danny Glover, Grammy-nominated musician Jon Batiste, and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif).

Voter turnout for Americans between 18-29 years old was the lowest of any age group for the 2016 election at 46.1%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Voters 65 and older reported the highest turnout at 70.9%, while turnout for those between 45-64 and 30-44 were 66.6% and 58.7%, respectively.

“I know there’s people who think ‘My one vote isn’t going to make a difference,’ but you have to think about how many people are thinking that same way,” White said. “That’s going to be hundreds and hundreds of thousands and maybe millions of people that don’t vote. Then they might be complaining about what’s going on in America, but you could have had a direct impact on who is in office and what type of initiatives are being put in place whether it’s in your state or Washington, D.C., so it’s very important for them to be aware and spread the messages just like we are.”

White said he feels it’s part of his responsibility as a professional athlete to utilize his platform to help spread awareness, whether it’s empowering and educating young voters or promoting social justice and equal rights; he was among a group of Patriots who knelt during the national anthem ahead of a game in September 2017.

The recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others—many at the hands of police—ignited Black Lives Matter to become potentially the largest movement in U.S. history. The movement and call for equal rights has expanded into sports—four years after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem to raise awareness on such issues—as leagues have begun speaking more openly about the issues plaguing the country. On June 5, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitted the league was “wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.”

While some high-profile players including J.J. Watt, Baker Mayfield and Adrian Peterson have spoken out in favor of peacefully protesting during the upcoming season, White admitted he’s unsure of how prevalent any actions will be, but is glad “our voices have been heard” and that the conversation is actively taking place. Despite the positive steps forward, he still sees the players themselves as the catalyst for conversation and change.

“I think they’re trying to [support us], but you can’t rely on them,” White said of the NFL. “As players, we just have to do our part and take it into our own hands. It doesn’t necessarily have to be at the facilities, it can be outside the facilities like I’m doing now with the Andrew Goodman Foundation getting out there and doing whatever we can to voice our thoughts and opinions to a younger generation and to those who really need to hear the message.

“[The NFL is] about making their money at the end of the day, so you can’t control what they’re doing. We have to control our actions and do whatever we can to make positive change.”

White’s sense of responsibility for spreading these messages of positive change stems from lessons learned from his father. Tyrone White, a police officer with the Miami-Dade County Police Department, has told his son: “To whom much is given, much is required.”

“I heard a lot of stories from my dad,” he said. “There’s racism in the police department, there’s racism in America, there’s a lot of things that people are unaware of but I think more and more people are starting to have conversations about how they grew up and things they’ve been through. Maybe some people have never realized other people go through these types of things, but it’s good for everybody to have these uncomfortable conversations. 

“It’s not about anybody feeling more important or anybody feeling less important, it’s just saying how you feel and that kind of gets the conversation rolling.”

For White, that conversation is around educating and empowering young voters to get out to the polls or submit absentee ballots in 2020 and beyond.

“It’s doing your research so you’re brushed up on everything and you’re picking the right people and make sure those people are trying to put the things in place you want to see put in place in this world,” he said. “Do as much research as possible, talk to your friends, spread the message to your friends, family, everybody so we can go out there and America can be a better place after this election.”

NOTE: First appeared on Forbes SportsMoney

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s