Lakers latest to use team facility as voting center

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Los Angeles Lakers joined a growing number of NBA teams to pledge to use their home arena as a voting center for the upcoming general election.

"The Lakers organization is extremely pleased to be able to partner with AEG and the County of Los Angeles to open up STAPLES Center to provide a safe and easily accessible location for people to vote," Lakers governor Jeanie Buss said in a statement Saturday. "For our democracy to function, all citizens need to be able to vote in a secure and safe way -- and we're very happy to be able to play our part in ensuring that they can."

Lakers star LeBron James tweeted his approval for the news shortly before Game 5 of L.A.'s first-round playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night.

Staples Center will be open for voters to cast their ballot from Friday, Oct. 30 through Election Day, Nov. 3. The downtown L.A. arena will also act as a vote-by-mail drop-box location, provided by the L.A. County Registrar's office, to provide an alternative to sending in the ballot through the postal service.

When players chose not to play in postseason games Wednesday to protest the excessive use of force by the Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officers in the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, the NBA and the National Basketball Players' Association came to an agreement on putting three initiatives into place before game action would resume.

One of those initiatives stated: "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 Sacramento Kings were the first NBA team to convert their arena to a voting location in 2018. Other teams to already commit to the use of their facilities for mass voting centers include the Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Houston Rockets, Charlotte Hornets and Utah Jazz.

The LA Clippers announced Friday that the Forum will serve as a vote center and that people will be able to vote in person or drop off mail-in ballots there from Oct. 24 to Nov. 3. The Memphis Grizzlies announced Friday that FedEx Forum would not be used as a voting center in the fall after consulting with the Shelby County Election Commission.

"After careful consideration, the Election Commission determined the best course of action would be to continue their focus of driving voters to their local precincts in order to create the best opportunity for high voter turnout on Election Day," the team said in a statement provided to the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

The Pavilion and AdventHealth Arena, where NBA playoff games resumed at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on Saturday, displayed new digital advertisements promoting voting, including the NBPA logo replacing the letter "O" in VOTE along with a reminder about this year's Election Day coming Nov. 3.

"In 2020, Angelenos can vote with a Mamba Mentality," California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement. "The Lakers are taking action to meet the NBA Players Association and NBA's commitment to create a more equitable democracy. Larger venues like Staples Center are at a premium to provide safer voting options during the pandemic. A vote center at Staples Center is a slam dunk for Los Angeles voters. I am thankful for the collaboration between elections officials, the Lakers, and AEG to create a meaningful partnership that will help more citizens have their voices heard and stay safe."