LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — When the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat take the court for Game 1 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals Tuesday night on ESPN, they will be wearing new warm-up shirts with « VOTE » on the front of them. The shirts will be worn for the duration of the Eastern and Western Conference finals, and the NBA Finals, until play inside the bubble at the Walt Disney World Resort concludes over the next few weeks.
The shirts are part of the league’s push to support nonpartisan voting access efforts in the wake of the decision by the Milwaukee Bucks — and, then, the remainder of the then-13 teams still inside the bubble — to not take the court for games in the first and second round of the NBA playoffs last month.
The shirts will be in the respective teams’ colors and come after teams have been predominantly wearing « Black Lives Matter » warm-up shirts throughout the league’s restart as part of an ongoing campaign to fight for social justice and against racial inequality.
During both the conference finals and the Finals, there will be messages promoting increased voter turnout in both local and national elections and raising awareness about voting access, with commercials and signage in the arena during games. So far, 20 NBA teams have confirmed their arena or team facilities will be used for voting and/or civic engagement programming during the upcoming election, while all 30 NBA teams have committed to supporting voting and engagement efforts in their local communities.
The push for voting access and the advertisements were two of the three things the league and National Basketball Players Association announced as part of an agreement that led to players returning to the court last month. The other was the creation of a social justice coalition including representatives among players, coaches and owners and that would focus on a range of issues.
The Western Conference finals won’t begin until Friday, when either the Denver Nuggets or LA Clippers will face the Los Angeles Lakers.
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