When the NBA and NBPA agreed to to resume the postseason back in August after the Milwaukee Bucks led a league-wide protest to stop play in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting, it came with several new social justice initiatives in place. The league agreed to form a coalition of players, coaches and governors to work on social justice programs, and to use advertising spots throughout the postseason to promote civic engagement. The most important development, however, will be the conversion of NBA arenas into voting sites for the 2020 presidential election.
"In every city where the league franchise owns and controls the arena property, team governors will continue to work with local elections officials to convert the facility into a voting location for the 2020 general election to allow for a safe in-person voting option for communities vulnerable to COVID," the NBA's statement read. "If a deadline has passed, team governors will work with local elections officials to find another election-related use for the facility, including but not limited to voter registration and ballot receiving boards."
The distinction in the first sentence is critical. Some NBA arenas are privately owned, allowing teams to easily offer them up as polling sites. Others are owned publicly, or by a mix of private entities, which makes use for elections slightly more complicated. Publicly owned arenas can still be used as voting sites, as will be the case with the AT&T Center, where the San Antonio Spurs play, but those decisions will be made by local officials. Some teams that play in publicly-owned arenas have tried to convince local officials to convert those arenas into polling places, but have been denied. The Miami Heat released a statement expressing their anger at that outcome.
"For months, we discussed the possibility with local elections officials knowing we could help make the voting process open, accessible, safe and even exciting. After all, our facility has a storied history of attracting and serving our friends and neighbors across Miami-Dade County. We did a walk-through with them and were led to believe we would be receiving an agreement to solidify all that had been discussed and make it official, including a commitment to make the Arena available for the same purpose in future years.
Then today, we were informed that our Arena would not be designated a polling place, in favor of the Frost Science Museum. This decision was made and delivered without further explanation. NBA arenas all over the country, including just up the road in Orlando are getting approved as polling sites with little to no pushback. We were under the impression that approval was imminent.
To say we are disappointed is a huge understatement. The Arena is clearly a better site, with more visibility, more space, and more parking."
While not every arena may be able to offer their space for the election, here is a list of which ones are going to be used as voting centers, early voting sites and ballot drop-off locations.
- Atlanta Hawks. On June 29, the Hawks announced that State Farm Arena would be used for early voting for the Georgia General Primary Runoff Election between July 20-Aug. 11, and it will be used for the general election on Nov. 3 as well.
- Detroit Pistons. On July 1, the Pistons announced that their practice facility, the Henry Ford Pistons Performance Center, would serve as a polling place on Nov. 3. Additionally, they announced several other initiatives, including a voter registration page on Pistons.com and live voter registration events at the practice facility.
- Sacramento Kings. The Golden 1 Center will be open to voters for registration from Oct. 24 through Nov. 3 and will serve as a voting center on Election Day, the Kings announced on July 17.
- Charlotte Hornets. On July 22, the Hornets announced that the Spectrum Center will be open for early voting from Oct. 15-31.
- Washington Wizards. On Aug. 10, the Wizards announced that Capital One Arena would be used as a voting site, but details are still being determined.
- Houston Rockets. The Toyota Center will be open to registered voters from Oct. 13-30 and on Election Day, Nov. 3, the team announced on Aug. 27.
- Los Angeles Clippers. The Forum, which is owned privately after Steve Ballmer purchased it from Knicks owner James Dolan in May, will be available for voters from Oct. 24-Nov. 3 to either drop off mail-in ballots or vote in person, the Clippers announced. The Clippers do not play at the Forum.
- New York Knicks. Madison Square Garden will be available for early voting from Oct. 24-Nov. 1 for over 60,000 registered New York voters assigned to it as a polling place, and will be open on Election Day itself from 6 a.m. through 9 p.m., ET, the Knicks announced.
- Indiana Pacers. Banker's Life Field House will be available as a voting site from Oct. 24-Nov. 1, and on Election Day, Nov. 3, the Pacers announced.
- Utah Jazz. Vivint Smart Home Arena will serve as a voting site on Election Day, Nov. 3, the Jazz announced. In addition, three Larry H. Miller Multiplex Theaters in Utah will be used as voting sites as well.
- San Antonio Spurs. Bexar County Commissioner Justin Rodriguez revealed Friday that the AT&T Center will be used as a voting site. The team has not followed that up with a release of its own, but the arena is owned by Bexar County.
- Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks announced that American Airlines Center will be used as a voting site as part of its "7 Days of Action" Initiative.
- Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers announced Saturday that Staples Center will be used as a voting site for the Presidential Election.
- Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers announced that Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse will be used both for voter registration on Sep. 22 and as a voting site on Nov. 3 despite being a publicly owned arena.
- Orlando Magic. The Magic announced that Amway Center will be open for early voting from Oct. 19 through Nov. 1.
- Brooklyn Nets. The Nets announced that the Barclays Center will be open as an early voting site as well as a polling location on election day.
- Golden State Warriors. The Warriors announced that the team's Oakland Facility as well as the Kaiser Permanente Arena which is home to the G League affiliate Santa Cruz Warriors will both serve as polling sites and ballot drop-off locations on Nov. 3. Thrive City, which is the outdoor district surrounding the new Chase Center, will act as a ballot drop-off spot on election day as well.
- Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder announced that Chesapeake Arena will serve as a voter registration location through Oct. 9.
- Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers announced that Wells Fargo Center can be used in whichever way the city of Philadelphia deems appropriate for general election activities.
- Phoenix Suns. The Suns announced that Veterans Memorial Coliseum will be used as a voting center and early voting ballot drop-off location for the Nov. 3 election.