Chesapeake Energy Arena to become voter registration site as NBA works with team cities on boycott demands

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Just days after the momentous NBA Playoffs boycott, officials with the Oklahoma City Thunder say plans are underway to meet the commitments set by the NBA and players’ union upon the teams’ return to court.

The NBA Playoffs took pause last week during a three-day boycott by players in Orlando, Florida.

The Oklahoma City Thunder did not take the court for Wednesday’s playoff game against the Houston Rockets as an act of protest against the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis. after the Milwaukee Bucks and the Orlando Magic did not show up on the court for tip-off earlier that afternoon.

The NBA and the players’ union agreed last Friday to resume the playoffs, with the understanding of three commitments being made.

The three commitments are the creation of a social justice coalition, allowing NBA arenas to be used as sites for voting, and commercials to be run during the playoffs encouraging people to vote.

Today, the Oklahoma City Thunder announced the Chesapeake Energy Arena will be open every Saturday from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. from Sept. 12 -Oct. 4 for voter registration drives.

It’s part of an extended Thunder Vote program.

Thunder Vote is a multi-faceted and sustainable initiative to promote voting, with an emphasis on ensuring that all eligible Oklahoma citizens are registered to vote, educate themselves on candidates and issues, and then cast their ballots via in-person or early and mail-in absentee voting. 

“Voting is an absolute cornerstone of our democracy and the Thunder is proud to help spread the message of the importance of registering and voting,” said Christine Berney, Thunder vice president of Community Relations. “Thunder Vote provides citizens with information and resources to help them be fully registered and educated voters. This is a non-partisan initiative to ensure that all eligible citizens in our community have the access and support they need to register, vote and have their voices heard in all federal, state and local elections. This has become a permanent priority of the Thunder organization.”

These events will provide citizens with access to computers, printers, postage-paid envelopes and other resources for them to register to vote and, if they would like, apply for an absentee ballot, which would be mailed to them. 

In addition to the arena registration events, the Thunder will coordinate with local leaders and organizations to take the register and vote message into neighborhoods throughout the community, with a goal of making the resources and information as accessible as possible. 

The Thunder corporate offices at the arena will also make voter registration and other voting information available during regular business hours, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., beginning Sept. 14. 

Key provisions of Thunder Vote include:

· Opening Chesapeake Energy Arena for voter registration drives every Saturday from Sept. 12-Oct. 4 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., in advance of the Oct. 9 registration deadline. These events will include free public access to computers, printers, postage and other registration and voting resources. 
· Offering the Thunder corporate offices as a location to pick up voter registration forms and other voting information, Monday – Friday during regular business hours beginning Sept. 14. 
· Educating citizens about and supporting access to alternative voting methods offered under Oklahoma election laws, including early voting at county election boards in the days leading up to elections and absentee voting by mail. 
· Information efforts on issues such as registration deadlines, sample ballots and where to find external candidate and issue information, specifically via the Oklahoma State Election Board’s online OK Voter Portal. 
· An emphasis on ensuring all segments of the community have equal access to voting information and resources.
· Working to educate young citizens of voting age on the importance of voting and offering them information and opportunities to register with events at schools, college campuses and other locations. 
· Utilizing the reach of Thunder social media, digital and broadcast platforms to spread the vote message. During the Orlando seeding and playoff games, the Thunder has been using its TV broadcast on FOX Sports Oklahoma to provide pertinent voting information. 
· Closing Thunder offices on federal and state election days, allowing staff the day to vote and take advantage of opportunities to volunteer at polling places.
· Additional emphasis on encouraging participation in the U.S. Census.

The NBA season was postponed for months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. When games resumed in Orlando, Fla., on July 30, teams across the league, including the Thunder, knelt during the National Anthem in protest against incidents of police brutality, the May 25th death of George Floyd in particular.

Floyd, an unarmed man, died beneath the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who pressed his knee down against the back of Floyd’s neck as other officers held Floyd down and kept civilians who expressed concern for Floyd at bay.

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