The NFL is partnering with three non-profit, non-partisan organizations to get out the vote as the league leverages its "Inspire Change" initiative.
The program will support and encourage voting and civic engagement efforts of current and former NFL players, club and league personnel and fans beginning Friday until Election Day in November.
"We're launching NFL Votes to inspire everyone in the NFL family -- including our fans -- to participate in the civic process by getting registered to vote and ultimately exercising their right to vote," said Commissioner Roger Goodell, whose father was a renowned U.S. senator. "When meeting with players and legends to listen to the things they're passionate about, voting is clearly an issue of critical importance."
Rock the Vote, RISE to Vote and I Am a Voter are the three partners who will conduct educational seminars and help with registrations and activation for all NFL personnel. Those groups will assist players in organizing their own voter registration drives for fans and local communities in club markets, hometowns, alumni college campuses, high schools and military bases overseas.
Twins Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin of the Seahawks are at the forefront of the movement among players. They know all too well about Americans not exercising their rights; about 100 million eligible voters, roughly 43%, did not go to the polls in 2016.
"We once were at a time in our lives when we felt our vote did not matter, and that came from conversations with people who felt the same way," said Shaquill, an emerging star cornerback entering his fourth pro season. "But our vote really does count. We all sat down together, talked with our mom and dad, and you can't get to the point that it doesn't matter. That was a problem, but once you have the conversation, we actually found the truth."
The Griffins -- Shaquem is a linebacker heading into his third NFL season -- grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, a city with low voter registration. Now that they have a prominent forum as professional athletes, they want to reach out. Not just in Florida, but anywhere that people aren't certain they will vote.
"You have to set the example," Shaquem said. "It's about getting up and doing it. People can say one thing and do another. If I want to be one of the better (examples) I have to be one who says I am going to do it and then do it. If they see me doing it and I take the step forward, I physically assure you this is the time to do it."
Added Shaquill: "We are using the platform we have, we can change people who feel that way, change their view and get them out to vote. It's important they understand, 'You are people who can really make change.'"
The league also notes that on Aug. 26, the nation will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which guarantees and protects women's constitutional right to vote. That actually occurred three weeks before the birth of the NFL.
The Griffins stressed that they are "honored" to be among the early faces of NFL Votes. Their Seahawks coach, Pete Carroll, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson and tackle Laremy Tunsil, and Saints defensive end Cam Jordan also have spoken out to launch the program.
"What do you want to see done?" Shaquill asks people. "And people are taking the initiative, and now is a different time (than 2016), and people are starting to see more and wanting to do more. They say, `Wow, I didn't know this was going on.'
"To get change, you need to go on and vote. Now we have to change that 60 percent and get it to 80 or 90 or 100. To have everyone say, `It is my time to get my vote in. What do I need to do to change it?'
"To get my brother to vote, my cousin, my family?"
Copyright 2020 by The Associated Press