Hofstra University announced in early June that the university would give its student-athletes a day off from all athletic activities on November 3rd. The decision came as a part of an initiative to encourage student athletes to vote in the 2020 election.
Frankie O’Brien, a member of the field hockey team and Student Athletic Advisory Committee, volunteered to be a part of a subcommittee to increase voter participation among athletes in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) conference. O’Brien, alongside another student athlete at Hofstra, participated in Zoom calls and workshops that focused on voter resources and information.
“I thought it would be something not only interesting, but good for Hofstra to have some representation on this committee because it’s such a big election year this year,” O’Brien said in an interview with GoodSport. “And in the past, Hofstra has been very involved with the debates and hosting debates and in the political scene. So why not get athletics more involved in that scene as well?”
When the school announced the off day for athletics, Hofstra became the second school in the country to do so, according to O’Brien The student-athlete committee identified ways that would encourage its students to vote, including the mandatory off day. The subcommittee also discussed voter registration and participation.
O’Brien said that the colleges and universities in the CAA turned voting registration into somewhat of a competition, and at one point Hofstra was one of the school’s that had the most people and teams registered. Everyone on Hofstra’s softball team, for example, is registered to vote. Alexa Corben, a history major and softball player, said she had conversations with her teammates regarding voter registration.
“I think it’s really big that the whole softball team is registered,” Corben told GoodSport. “For some of us, it’s going to be their first time voting. It’s important to be active citizens whenever we can and set a good example for others.”
According to Tufts University, young voters (18-29) had a 50 percent turnout rate for the 2016 general election. Similar to the 2016 election, 2020 is also a general election year. Corben said that even though it is a big election year, local elections are just as important.
“It’s a way for us to have a voice in our society. I know there’s a presidential election coming up, which is major, but there’s also local elections, which are even bigger because that’s where you live,” Corben said. “Those are your communities. So if you don’t vote, you’re letting other people make the choice for you and you’re giving up your voice and that’s not something you want to have. You want to let your voice be heard.”
Athletes also have a role in activism. This summer, protesters marched for the Black Lives Matter movement. Protesters called for justice for Black lives that were killed because of police brutality. Athletes showed their support by using their platform on social media and at games, matches and practices. The WNBA, NBA and MLB took part in a wildcat strike while student athletes participated in protests in their communities, too.
“I think athletes have a big stage just with America and American culture,” O’Brien said. “And I think by athletes going and voting, it kind of sets the precedent for other American citizens and just general population students.”