By Clare Bratten
NASHVILLE, TN — Because over 100 million voting-eligible Americans did not vote in the 2016 election, the National Football League has been recruiting voters with a “NFL Votes” initiative. The initiative is aimed at getting NFL fans to vote as well as NFL team members and staff. North Nashville native and Tennessee State alum Traci Otey Blunt is spearheading the initiative.
This is not the first time Traci Otey Blunt has worked to get out the vote. In 2000, she worked on the Al Gore campaign and she had a celebrity with her to help get out the vote –the singer Cher. She remembers walking up to TSU students who were still waiting in line to vote at Hadley Park voting location. The line was long and the students had heard that the polls had closed and some students were starting to leave without voting. She and Cher told them to stay in line, that they could still vote as long as they were already in line.
Now the NFL wants to encourage voters to get in line, stay in line and vote.
“It’s a non-partisan campaign. So, it’s not about voting Democratic or Republican, but specifically for exercising the right to vote,” Blunt said. Blunt is Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications for the NFL.
“The NFL players came to the Commissioner and to the head of the players association to say they wanted to engage around this important issue. We launched our first public service announcement where players said, if they only give 60 percent of their time towards the game, ‘we will never win a game and would not be competing at the highest level.’” (Link to the NFL PSA https://youtu.be/lrjuBdoRjzo).
“NFL Votes” is partnering with three other voting initiatives — Rock The Vote, Rise to Vote and “I am a voter.®”
Traci Otey Blunt explained that the campaign had three phases. First an education piece, then a push to get voters registered, and now an “activation phase” where they hope voters will actually go to the polls and vote.
“We launched the campaign in conjunction with the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 2020. During training camps all players had an education session that was mandatory. Since then, over 950 NFL players registered to vote who had not been registered before.”
All 32 NFL clubs wanted to make their stadium available for voting but local restrictions and requirements may have made that not possible.
“Right now, 30 of our clubs are doing something in person or virtual voter drive, or have created micro sites to link them to registration; they’ve done a lot of social media, and T shirts.
The “NFL Votes” effort is also to educate voters to understand the whole down ticket – the importance of understanding the entire ticket of candidates – not just the Presidential campaign.
“‘NFL Votes’ has also done two sessions with HBCU students to hear from Rock the Vote,” said Traci Otey Blunt.
The “NFL Votes” website at https://www.nfl.com/causes/votes/ has PSA videos, links to sign up to volunteer on election day and a list of NFL stadiums and facilities that are serving as either a polling site, a ballot drop-off site, or a voter registration site.