First-Timers: An NBA Player’s First Time Voting
S1: A couple of times in this election season, I found myself in this strange situation, I’ll be meeting someone new, making idle chit chat. And then as we talk, I slowly realize we completely disagree about politics. I think a lot of people are having this kind of experience. It’s part of what’s amped up, the anxiety going into today, at least for me. When I called up Larry Nance Jr. He had a story like this for me.
S2: It’s one of our one of our neighbors growing up. You know, I my family is my dad’s black, my mom’s white. My sister is gay. We’re very we’re very pro Biden, right. Very Democrat. You know, this election, we kind of learn that are our neighbors that we grew up with, you know, knowing their kids, knowing them, don’t necessarily feel that way.
S1: Larry lives just a few blocks away from his childhood home in Ohio, a state where the polls have shown Joe Biden and President Trump are tied.
S2: How did you find out they were Trump supporters of the four or five Trump signs in their front yard?
S3: So when you when you saw that, were you like, OK, I want to go over there and talk to them?
S1: Are you like we just got to hold it till after the election?
S2: I haven’t seen him since. They put the signs up. We babysat their kids, you know, and we haven’t seen them since. They put the signs up. And it’s one of those where, like, you know, they haven’t they haven’t called us. We haven’t called them. It’s one of those is just like, oh, OK. Well, that’s where your stance is. Let’s just let’s just let this election pass.
S1: These neighbors, they probably know where the Nans family stands when it comes to presidential politics in Ohio. The man’s family is kind of a thing. Our reputation is perhaps the best labor in the game. Larry Nance senior played for the Cleveland Cavaliers for seven seasons. He was also known for his spectacular slam dunk. Puts it away. Larry Nance, Junior. He now plays for the Cavs to dance. Would you describe yourself as political?
S2: I wouldn’t describe myself as political. Now, why not? Because I was for twenty six and a half years of my life. I have not I haven’t been really interested in it. I haven’t been, you know, outspoken. I haven’t really known enough to consider myself having an educated opinion on it. So I that’s probably why I wouldn’t consider myself political.
S1: It seems like I changed fast this year.
S2: It did. It did it.
S1: Like a lot of NBA players, FILLERY, the Black Lives Matter movement spoke to him. It also made him realize he wasn’t as apolitical as he thought he was, which is how at 27, Larry ended up registering to vote for the very first time in this election. I spoke to him this weekend. Have you voted yet?
S2: I have not. I’m actually really looking forward to I want to do it. I want to do it on Election Day just to get like the the full full bore experience.
S3: You want to get the high from that? I do. I really do. Like, I’m looking forward to it. Today on the show, The Last in our series of conversations with first time voters, Larry Nance Junior had a political awakening this year.
S1: He spent the last few months trying to wake up everyone around him.
S4: I’m Mary Harris. You’re listening to what next? Stick with us.
S1: I want to tell your story as a first time voter, but I also want to kind of tell the story of the league and how it really stepped up this year in terms of encouraging fans to vote. And when I was reading about it, it seemed to me like the story of the league this year really started with George Floyd and how his death galvanized players. Is that fair?
S2: I do think that’s fair to say, you know, with how I don’t want to say publicized, but with how widespread the killing of George Floyd got to be, you know, not just in America, but the whole world. You know, young black men took offense to that. And that’s the majority of our league. And so, you know, when I started speaking up on it, it was a it came from a place of pain that could have been me, that could have been my son, that could’ve been my dad, that could have been, you know, came from a genuine place of concern and need for change. And so, you know, I think it was I definitely think that sparked it.
S1: I read that after George Floyd died back in May, your team held a big conference call to talk about what you should do and wonder if you can take me back to that conference call and like what happened on it? What was it like?
S2: So it was it was it was pretty deep, actually. It was. You know, like we said, we’ve got 19 year old young black men on our team. We have 30 year old black men on our team. We have twenty five year old. So like there were there was a lot a lot of guys on that call saying that’s that’s terrifying. That’s terrifying. Like he we just watched someone of my exact description just be absolutely killed, like an animal. You know, guys were, you know, scared of getting pulled over, getting getting a ticket, getting, you know, any interaction with the police. And so and so hearing hearing my teammates, my friends speak like that was you know, it was pretty it was pretty moving.
S1: A reporter who talked about this call so that during the call, a member of the Cavs was sitting in his car while a police officer walked by and and fearful.
S2: Yeah, he was. I mean, is that that did happen. And, you know, there were a few people, few guys that were just like, hey, just like keep your hands on the steering wheel. You’re not doing anything wrong. You’re fine. You know, kind of had to talk him down. But, you know, that was a very legitimate concern for him. And, you know, none of us laughed it off because, you know, this is very real.
S1: Yeah. Sounds like a lot of guys felt like they’d been there.
S2: One hundred percent felt like, all right, I need to act as normal. You know, I’m not doing anything wrong. I need to act like it where it’s like, no, you don’t have to act like you’re doing nothing wrong. You’re actually doing nothing wrong. And I just think that that’s you know, people can say they don’t understand it, they don’t get it. And I think that’s exactly right. You know, there’s there are a lot of people that don’t understand what black men go through when they see a police officer or what what the you know, why they’re scared or don’t don’t think they should be scared. And it’s because they’ve never experienced it.
S1: The team started thinking together about how to turn their feelings into political action, specifically by voting.
S2: We hadn’t had any conversations about voting before before any of this. And then and then once, you know, once once all this came about, it was like, all right, well, hey, man, are you registered? Like, where are you living right now? Are you or where’s your license at? Are you in Oregon? Are you in New York or are you in California? Like, if you’re not, I’m going to go register to vote right now because my license in Ohio, so like you want to come with me. And so there were a few of us that just went and got registered together along with one of our coaches. And so it just became conversation and guys started getting interested in it. And I mean, I know I took I took Kevin Love to go get registered for the first time and that that was great. And then the next day, Kevin Porter Junior got registered and he went with one of our coaches, Dan Jarro. So, yeah, those are those are four brand new voters that we never had before. And so you got to think if if two other groups do that and that’s that’s twelve or thirteen more voters, that’s that’s huge. That’s a big deal.
S1: Where are these conversations happening? Like, are you guys texting each other? Is there a chat? Is are you having Zoome calls? Like tell me more about that in the locker room.
S2: In the locker room. In the weight room, on the court via FaceTime. I mean, we’re put in the locker room and and basically said, hey, here are your friends for the foreseeable future. So we talk to each other all the time and know in any way that we can. So, yeah, like me and Kevin talk all the time. Our based on Treston, we we’re in a group chat with them. So we talked about it then. I was shooting with my coach when. When he said he was going to go go get registered to vote, so it happens all over the place. It’s not like we’re sitting down having these having sit down conversations about it. It’s just something that is very on everybody’s mind.
S1: I read this statistic that only 22 percent of NBA players voted in 2016, which is not a lot. Did you guys talk about that, too? About like sitting on the sidelines in years past?
S2: We did. Guys didn’t. I mean, guys did not speak. I’ll speak for myself. Like, I didn’t realize just I just kind of didn’t realize that it was that important. You know, I’m like, all right. Well, you know, the president is just kind of somebody that’s just going to sit up there and, you know, kind of be a figurehead. And then I just didn’t know any better. And now after after seeing everything that’s going on and learning like how how do we actually invoke this change we want to see? And, you know, that that answer being that answer being the polls like, well, hey, look, I’m I’m pretty upset about how George Floyd died. I’m pretty upset about how Brianna Taylor was treated. I’m pretty upset about about all this stuff that’s going on. I’m pretty upset about how we’re handling covid. So, you know, instead of sitting here being upset about it, I should make my voice. I should I can’t be upset if I don’t, you know, use my right to vote like I have no right to be sitting here mad and angry about what’s going on in our country. If I didn’t, you know, use my voice to try to change it. And so I think that’s what guys are really starting to realize. And, you know, I I don’t know the exact number, but it’s going to be way higher than twenty two percent this year.
S1: I’m really curious about how you made that change in yourself or whether you want to talk about how you maybe helped a friend of yours see that their vote counted.
S2: Gosh, that’s a good one. I mean, for me, it was it was statistics. It was. I’m a big numbers guy. Right. So so, like, the stats of it all really, really opened my eyes to, like, what one vote truly means. You know, I live in Ohio here. So what made me realize, like, oh, man. Not to say, you know, other people that live elsewhere don’t matter, but like, geez, Ohio is a major deal. Hmm. Nobody has won the presidency without winning the state of Ohio since 1960. And so, like, I you know, I read that it was just like, oh, man, that’s a huge deal. Like a couple thousand votes. A couple hundred votes could could sway the election left to right. And, you know, I don’t want to sit here and be, you know, potentially be upset about how the election turns out. And I just sat on my butt and do my part. So for me, it was the numbers that was just like totally eye opening to me. And I don’t know for me, I don’t necessarily know what I would tell one of my teammates, other than just trying to show them the facts of, hey, look like you may not think your vote matters, but if you’re saying that, you got to think like you are not the only one saying that. There’s a couple there’s a couple hundred of you. There’s a couple thousand of you. There’s a couple hundred thousand of you. And so, you know, the more the more that keeps adding up and the more and more people just don’t think that their vote matters or don’t think it counts, start to really count negatively. And so I don’t know. For me, it was just I didn’t want to be I don’t want to be part of the.
S1: I don’t want to be a part of the nonconscious, but Larry didn’t want to settle for just registering himself or convincing some teammates to vote. He wanted to reach out to fans, convinced them to get involved. And when Larry noticed Ohio changing its rules about voting, limiting the number of Dropbox locations for ballots, he took to Twitter to call out Ohio’s secretary of state, Frank Leros, our secretary of state has put one ballot, Dropbox, in each county in Ohio.
S2: So that means there is 88 counties in Ohio, there are eight Dropbox’s in Ohio, there are 72 drop boxes in just the Seattle area of Washington. There are 79 drop boxes in just the Denver area of Colorado. Whoa. And there are eighty eight in the entire state of Ohio. You really are a numbers guy. I’m a numbers guy, yes. And the different the difference is Colorado and Washington are not trying to and this is just you know, they are not trying to suppress that vote. There is there is zero reason, absolutely zero reason why we have eighty eight Dropbox’s in the entire state, especially during a pandemic, especially when there’s all this hubbub about the USPS, the post office, potentially losing ballots and all this all the people worried about their vote, not counting. And the fact that we have Cuyahoga County, the Cleveland area, one point two million people. Nine hundred thousand potential voters, one Dropbox’s. There’s just that’s ridiculous.
S1: It turns out this fight hits close to home for Larry. He knows Frank Leros personally.
S2: But my family, I grew up you know, his family is from Akron. My family’s from Akron. I know his we are we are family, friends that go back a few generations. We are Americans. Yes, I know his I mean, I’m very close with his with his cousins. Like, we we we know each other. And yeah, I’ve tweeted at him, pointed tweets at him and at the Governor DeWine, and he hasn’t really gotten back to me. And so I’m just going to keep I’m going to keep doing my part, keep letting people know what you know, what this guy is doing to keep them quiet, especially during a pandemic, during covid. You have to make voting easier. This is you have to make voting easier.
S1: That’s so funny that you, like, know his cousins and like it feels very small town.
S2: It is a small town. I mean, I’ve been over their house. They’ve we’ve stayed at their house in Hawaii. We are I mean, we are friends, not just fake friends. We are legitimate family, friends. And yes, I’ve taken I’ve taken my stance on and on where I believe he should be. He should be doing his job better and better, serving his, you know, the people that elected him to to serve them. And he’s not. And I’m going to keep letting it be known so that, you know, whenever you know, in two years when he’s up for re-election, I’m one hundred percent going to be revisiting this more.
S3: What next after the break.
S1: So the Cavs weren’t in the bubble this year, but you guys were all still really pushing on these voting issues you negotiated to open up your basketball arena to voters. Can you talk a little bit about how that happened?
S2: So that was got to give credit where it’s due. That was a lot of the owners that pushed for that.
S1: Hmm. Did that surprise you?
S2: Yes, it did. That’s all I can say. Which was a little bit I don’t want to say shocking, but which was I’ll say it was good to see. Was really good to see.
S1: Do you feel like the owners felt pressure? Because frankly, there’s no sports franchise without the players and the players were pretty clear about what they wanted?
S2: Yes, it’s possible. But at the same time, that’s. That’s awesome. I’m thrilled that we apply that pressure. You know, I think it’s a I think it’s a great thing that they that they responded to the pressure. I think it’s a I don’t know. I think it’s I think it’s terrific. If they did feel pressure, it’s it’s there’s bad peer pressure and there’s coming in this case is it’s good peer pressure. You know, you can only get, you know, good publicity, good things. And, you know, great things happen by participating in a democracy. And that’s that’s what they did by opening their facilities. And, you know, they they’ve they’ve gained some loyal allies and their players because of it.
S1: Hmm. You’re so positive. I feel like whenever I hear you talk about voting and how important it is, you’re talking about it in a really non-partisan way, just its involvement. It seems intentional.
S2: Yes. One hundred percent. And that’s why I’m not trying to discourage conservatives from voting. I’m not trying to encourage Democrats more than conservatives. I want if we could have every single person in the country, everyone if we can have us all vote, that’s how we’re going to get the answer where the majority is happy. And and so, you know, for me, that’s what it’s all about, you know, just getting the as many people as we can. I want the entire state of Wyoming to vote. It’s going to be red. That’s fine. I want the entire state of California to vote. That’s going to be blue. It’s great. Like and where it comes down to is I want the entire state of Ohio to vote. So, you know, when a president is picked and and Ohio turns out to be blue or red, whichever way it turns, it spins. We did our job, you know, say it doesn’t go you know, it’s it’s just like it’s like basketball. You know, if I if I give it my all if I do one hundred percent everything that I can do and we lose. And you know what? I can hang my hat. I can hang my hat on the fact that I did all I could. I gave it my all I left it on the court. And, you know, I’m I have no regrets in that, you know, that’s that’s where I’m trying to come from, from a sheer numbers perspective, instead of trying to just like, you know, finger point and, you know, call names and stuff like that. There’s nothing nothing good comes of that.
S1: OK, but I mean, part of the reason you want people to come out is because I have a sneaking suspicion. You think there are folks who have been silent or have felt like they don’t have a place in the election and you want them you want them to vote because you think they’re probably supporting Biden in the two groups that don’t that are least likely to vote minorities and people under the age of 30.
S2: And so that’s I mean, ideally, that’s who I like. Who we’re targeting is like, hey, you guys that didn’t vote, we need to get you. You need to make your voice heard. You guys like you guys matter. And so we’re trying to get across to them to work. Yeah. I mean, minorities are going to swing Biden’s way. That’s just it seems highly likely people under 30 are likely going to swing Biden’s way. It seems likely. And yeah. Is that what is that what I’m voting? Absolutely. And I won’t shy away from that. But at the end of the day, you know, if four Republicans see my tweets and go, you know what, he’s right, I should vote, then I’m happy with that as well. Voter engagement is what is really what the NBA has been all about. And that’s been my message the whole time.
S1: Hmm. I wonder where you think your advocacy is going to go from here? I feel like you have started something. I don’t I don’t get the sense you’re going to stop.
S2: No, no, I’m not. You know, it’s something that I’m actually very, very proud of in terms of my my advocacy being vocal about the things that I believe in and standing up for. And and, you know, I’ve gotten some yeah. I’ve gotten some some some bad earmarks for some good remarks were a bit of the day. It feels it does feel good to, you know, try to ignite the change that I you know, that that I hope to see. And I feel like that’s what we all should be doing instead of just sticking to basketball. And that’s that’s why I’m really proud of where the NBA is headed.
S1: Can you talk me through your Election Day because you’re clearly psyched for it. I wonder if you’ve thought about it in your head like this is how it’s going to go.
S2: So I have yes, our polling site is just right at the end of our road, this little this little church actually where I went to elementary school that so, you know, I plan on, you know, getting out of bed, grabbing some breakfast, heading down there, voting, putting on my sticker, taken, you know, taking a little social media, you know, a little Instagram selfie with our stickers on and head to the gym to go workout with the sticker on.
S3: The sticker will be sticker will be on. Larry Nance, Junior, thank you so much for joining me. Of course, I appreciate you having me on. Larry Nance Jr plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers. All right, that’s the show for now, whatever you’re doing tonight, stay healthy, breathe deep. I’m going to be watching the returns with our own Jim Newell. And the two of us are going to be back in this field bright and early tomorrow to walk you through everything we know so far. This show is heroically produced just about every day of the week by Mary Wilson, Jason de Leon, Elena Schwartz and Danielle Hewitt. We are getting a big assist right now from Frannie Kelley. Thank you, Frannie. The show in particular would not have been possible without our secret weapon. Slate’s Katie Raiford. Our bosses are Allison Benedikt and Alicia Montgomery. And I am Mary Harris. If you need some relief tonight, you can probably find me on Twitter. I’ll be posting pictures of my dog. Among other things. I’m at Mary’s Desk. But if you’re avoiding social media and I salute you for it, you can still catch all of us back here tomorrow.