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‘Everything’s up in the air’ for 2020-21 NBA season
What I’m Hearing: USA TODAY Sports’ Mark Medina breaks down the future of the NBA heading into the 2020-21 season.
For the past month, they admired how their sons returned to work and fulfilled a job description that went beyond dribbling and shooting a basketball.
That respect deepened when the Milwaukee Bucks staged a walkout before a playoff game against the Orlando Magic in late August after a Wisconsin police officer shot Black man Jacob Blake. Shortly afterwards, several families of NBA players organized a conference call.
“The parents started discussing, ‘How can we support our sons?’ ” recalled Beverly Grant-Holston, whose sons play for the Denver Nuggets (Jerami Grant) and the Washington Wizards (Jerian Grant). “Sometimes people will make you feel like because you care about things that are going on or that you speak out about them that there’s something wrong with that. But these young men have a voice. So the parents felt we should support them, and that we also have a voice.”
The Wizards are one of 23 NBA franchises hosting voting sites at their venue. The mothers of Los Angeles Lakers guard Quinn Cook (Janet), Golden State Warriors forward Damion Lee (Michelle Riddick) and Grant-Holston are volunteering as poll workers at Capital One Arena. Janet Cook started as a greeter last week and plans to work there through Election Day. Grant-Holston and Riddick will help as election judges on Sunday and Election Day, which will entail registering same-day voters and signing in people that have already registered.
The participation means much more than the $250 stipend they will receive for donating their time. The NBA moms also want to perform their civic duty during a contested presidential election between Republican incumbent Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, the longtime Senator and former vice president.
“Whether your child is the star player of the NBA or the 12th man riding on the bench, we’re in a privileged position,” Riddick said. “When you’re in a privileged position, you have to use that to give back to other people and to do things that are going to help other people.”
The mothers of Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant (Wanda), Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo (Joan) and NBA players Marcus and Markieff Morris (Thomasine) also participated in When We All Vote’s “Fuel the Vote” in Philadelphia on Sept. 26, a drive-thru food and voter registration drive directed toward those in need because of the coronavirus pandemic. So did Grant-Holston, Cook, Riddick, the mother of former NBA player Hakeem Warrick (Queen) as well as the wife of former NBA player Gerald Henderson Jr. (Marie). Mothers of Dallas Mavericks guard Trey Burke (Ronda) and Minnesota Timberwolves guard Evan Turner (Iris James) are helping as voting deputies in Franklin County, Ohio.
As for the latest event? Cook, (events staffing), Riddick (registered nurse) and Grant-Holston (HR director with FEMA) had to carve some time out of their work schedule to help with voting efforts.
They each took a four-hour training course last week to prepare for their roles.
“I don’t know why it took them until 2020 to develop an Election week versus an Election Day,” Cook said. “The week makes it so much easier.”
Still, this experience has many challenges.
“I definitely had some hesitation because of the virus and being around so many people,” Grant-Holston said.
So far, Cook has gushed about seeing friendly faces, diverse groups and first-time voters. But she’s also nervous.
“If Trump wins, a lot of people are going to be upset,” said Cook. “If Biden wins, a lot of people are going to be upset.
“We’re not going to hear the result right away.”
This is an important time. The NBA moms are practicing what they preached when raising their sons and about going out to vote.
“I’m putting out positive energy,” Riddick said. “So I’m expecting people to come out and vote and really be responsible adults and be courteous and not have rude behavior. I’m expecting a large turnout because it seems like everyone is fueled up for this election.”