With Election Day 2020 rapidly approaching, the push to get voters to the polls will surely increase. And the NFL is doing its part to be a part of the conversation.
On Thursday morning, the NFL announced the launch of NFL Votes, a league-wide, non-partisan initiative that will support and encourage the civic engagement and voting of NFL players, legends, club and league personnel, and NFL fans from now until Nov. 3.
New Orleans Saints defensive end Cam Jordan is among the players and coaches at the forefront of promoting this initiative. Thursday's edition of NFL Total Access featured Jordan participating in a panel, moderated by NFL Network's Steve Wyche, alongside NFL Vice President of Policy and Rules Administration Jon Runyan and Natalie Tran, the executive director of the Creative Artists Agency Foundation, to discuss the importance of NFL Votes. The 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee first spoke to whether or not he and other players talk with each other about encouraging people to get out and vote.
"Absolutely, especially when you talk about this offseason. I mean, you talk about almost four years ago, when President elect 45 was coming up on term, this is something that became a large focus then but now we're really emphasizing and focusing on education, not only for the players but for the fans, for the coaches," Jordan said. "Voter education is so important and I think with this upcoming election, normally people think about presidential elections, they think about once every four years but it's beyond that. It's tuning into the legislative process of your senators, representatives, governors, mayors and everything that you can [to] exercise your rights. There have been so many different ways where people before us have fought for our rights to vote so it's now our time to exercise our given rights."
Runyan, who carved out a niche for himself during his 14-year NFL career, managed to do the same in the political realm once his playing days were over, serving two terms as a U.S. congressman in New Jersey from 2011-15. After stressing the impact voters can have by saying that the best way to get local and state legislators to listen is to "vote for them or get them outta there," the former offensive tackle touched on the NFL's role in influencing voters.
"I think the Commissioner [Roger Goodell] has done a really good job of really stepping up and listening to what the players want and making NFL Votes part of that process," he said. "When you go back and look at 2016, there were 100 million people in this country that did not vote. It's unfortunate it took this long to really get to where we're at in the NFL but with the players excited to get the owners onboard, get the NFL onboard and get the rest of the country behind us, this is a thing."
The visibility of the professional athlete has sent major reverberations throughout society over the past few months as seen by the support shown by a wide array of athletes for the Black Lives Matter movement and the need for social justice reform in the United States. As the co-founder of the public awareness campaign "I am a voter" -- one of three non-profits the NFL has partnered with for its new initiative -- Tran sees the power of having these athletes, particularly those that may appeal more toward younger demographics, use their platforms to inspire others.
"Young voters, voters of color and women are gonna make up the majority of the electorate this year. So, when you have your favorite athletes and you have people that you really look up to, your favorite NFL players, encouraging you to vote, sharing their personal stories with them, telling them that it's OK to care about your community, it's OK to want to be an engaged citizen. There's no better platform than the NFL and these players talking to them about this movement on their social media account, pushing it out on their different platforms. We think that this is just an unbelievable opportunity for folks like Cam to step in and really be leaders in this moment," she said.
Jordan doubled down on those sentiments, highlighting the role that he hopes to play in the coming months.
"It's so important to not only just encourage people to vote, but encourage people to then further their knowledge of what they're exactly voting for," Jordan said. "I'm not trying to direct how they vote, I'm just trying to direct if they vote, encourage them to vote. I want people to be able to use their platform."
For more information on NFL Votes and the work being done around the league, please visit www.nfl.com/votes.