| USA TODAY
The former NBA star rarely shied from using his voice. But Shaquille O’Neal often used his megaphone just to entertain fans.
Therefore, it might not be surprising O’Neal has not opined much on social issues. The 48-year-old even admitted on his podcast that he had never voted until recently completing an absentee ballot for the presidential election on Nov. 3.
“I don’t have any excuses, but I didn’t have time,” O’Neal told USA TODAY Sports. “That’s a bad excuse. My mom was disappointed. Uncle Jerome was disappointed. But this year, I made time.”
So much that O’Neal confirmed that he participated in a virtual rally to support Democratic candidate Joe Biden. O’Neal did not share specifics, but published reports said that comedian Tiffany Haddish and civil rights activist Ruby Bridges hosted the rally for alumni of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Despite his lack of civic interest previously, O’Neal and Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum participated recently in a voting initiative. The “MyStartingFiveChallenge” entailed nominating five people to register to vote by typing “#MyStartingFive” on social media platforms.
“I don’t like being a hypocrite if I’m asking everybody to vote and enact change,” O’Neal said. “I can’t ask people to vote if I don’t vote.”
Even if O’Neal has stayed away from the polls until this year, he has still been active behind the scenes.
Although campaign financial records show O’Neal has not donated to any candidate or political campaign, he said he has helped five sheriffs and a district attorney in local elections. O’Neal has a close relationship with law enforcement after two of his uncles worked as police officers in Newark, New Jersey.
Partly because of that familiarity with law enforcement, O’Neal and his foundation have partnered with Pepsi on “Pepsi Stronger Together,” a nationwide project that will involve local charities and law enforcement.
“There’s a lot of people speaking out and a lot of people that are fed up. That is good. But just like any business, there has to be proper planning,” O’Neal said. “We’re making a lot of noise, and now we have to urge people to vote and get people in places that understand what we’re talking about so laws can be changed. That’s how you get stuff done.”