by Rhiannon Potkey/Tennis Recruiting Network
UCLA Athletics in June launched the Voting Matters Initiative (VMI), which focuses on voter education and voter registration among UCLA athletes. Representatives were selected for each team on campus, with Hart and teammate Abbey Forbes chosen for women’s tennis.
“Our new athletic director, Martin Jarmond, really got the thing rolling because it’s an election year and he didn’t know how many people my age or in my generation were registered to vote,” said Hart, a redshirt senior from Corona, California. “He started this initiative to stress the importance of voting and make sure we all were informed.”
Athlete activism geared towards voting has been prevalent across the country in the wake of widespread protests and discussions surrounding social injustice, racism and police brutality. This year’s general election is November 3rd, and many college and professional sports teams are promoting ways for people to exercise their civic duty to help enact change.
Earlier this week, as part of the Pac-12’s social justice and anti-racism efforts, the conference announced a “collective commitment among all 12 member schools to facilitate registration and acquisition of mail-in ballots for all willing and eligible student-athletes before the 2020 National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 22, 2020.”
Georgia Tech assistant men’s basketball coach Eric Reveno was an early leader in advocating for all colleges to make Election Day a mandatory day off for athletes. The NCAA has not made it a formal rule, but has encouraged member schools to schedule Election Day off.
“Voting is something all student-athletes and citizens should be aware of, especially in our country now with the pandemic going on and everything else going on,” Hart said. “It’s important for everybody to know every vote counts, and I think people need to realize that it’s not just voting for our President. It’s voting for people in county offices, state offices, governors and mayors and all the people below that as well.”
Before March, Hart didn’t think she would still be attending UCLA during the election. But the coronavirus pandemic changed her plans.
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