As part of the decision to resume the NBA playoffs on Saturday, the league and its players will work together on several initiatives in support of social justice and racial equality.
One of those initiatives: “In every city where the league franchise owns and controls the arena property, team governors will continue to work with local elections officials to convert the facility into a voting location for the 2020 general election to allow for a safe in-person voting option for communities vulnerable to COVID,” said a joint statement issued Friday by the NBA and NBPA.
NBA to resume playoffs Saturday. What does it mean for Heat? And a look at past 48 hours
The Miami Heat has pushed in recent weeks to make AmericanAirlines Arena a voting site for upcoming elections, but Miami-Dade County has yet to approve the request. The county’s approval is required to turn the downtown Miami arena into a polling location.
Miami-Dade owns the arena, and the county controls where to place hundreds of polling places for elections throughout the year. There was no immediate response from the Miami-Dade Elections Department on the Heat’s request, but the county commissioner representing that part of Miami said the arena could meet a need for the neighborhood.
“It probably would be helpful,” said Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, whose District 3 includes downtown Miami and neighborhoods to the north. She said Miami-Dade needs an accessible voting site downtown on Election Day. “We’ve been looking.”
The arena also could be used as a replacement for an early-voting site in the downtown area.
Miami-Dade typically uses the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts for two weeks of early voting during fall elections. But the county-owned performance hall isn’t available in 2020, and Miami-Dade is scouting for new locations. “The Elections Department has visited other facilities in the area and will make a decision soon,” Elections spokeswoman Suzy Trutie said Friday.
One of the facilities county election officials recently visited is AmericanAirlines Arena, according to a source familiar with the situation.
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The Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, Charlotte Hornets and Utah Jazz are among the NBA teams that have already announced their arena will be available to be used as voting locations in November.
“We think it would be terrific for the city, for our community,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said in July of the Heat’s request to turn AmericanAirlines Arena into a polling location. “There at the arena, we think we would be able to make it safe. We would be able to follow all the health protocols. It could be extremely efficient. It would be fantastic for the city and we’re pushing for it. Really, the ball is in their court right now. We want to make it happen and that’s really something that we hope we can get done.”
As part of the Heat’s social justice pledge, the organization has pledged to donate to organizations that are working to eradicate racial inequality, support education initiatives that serve the Black community and help more Black students attend college, provide opportunities to Black students with its company mentoring and internship programs, support voter registration initiatives that make it easier for more people to vote, give all Heat staff paid time off on Election Day to vote, designate Juneteenth as a permanent paid holiday for employees of the organization and partner with Black-owned businesses in the community.
The Heat also recently launched Heat.com/vote, an online portal that allows anybody in the United States to learn about candidates and ballot initiatives in their own communities.
With the NBA playoffs resuming Saturday at the league’s Disney campus, the Heat is still waiting to learn which team it will face in the next round after completing a first-round sweep of the Indiana Pacers on Monday. Miami’s second-round series had been expected to begin as early as Sunday before the playoffs were put on hold, but it’s now not expected to begin until Monday at the earliest.
The Heat will play the winner of the Bucks-Magic series in the next round, with Milwaukee holding a 3-1 lead in the series.