BY ROY PARRY
ORLANDO – With a push from the Orlando Magic, Amway Center is about to become the largest early-voting site in Orange County.
And one of the Magic’s tallest players could be welcoming voters as they walk in.
The arena will be open to Orange County residents for early voting from Monday, Oct. 19, through Sunday, Nov. 1 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day, officials announced on Wednesday. All registered voters from Orange County will be able to cast their ballot at Amway, which will be one of 20 early-voting sites in the county for the 2020 general election.
Magic center Mo Bamba first raised the idea of utilizing the space available at Amway, and the team went to work with the city of Orlando, which owns and operates the arena, Orange County and the Orange County Supervisor of Elections to achieve the goal.
Bamba months ago began looking at the possibility of using his team’s arena as a voting site, as a few NBA teams already had done, and thought it would be a good fit for Central Florida. Bamba said he wanted his efforts to be more proactive than reactive amid social unrest throughout the country.
“Voting to me is the most American thing you can do for a democracy to work. I learned that at a very young age in elementary school, just voting for a class president,” Bamba said. “This is just something I want to push for.”
Using his platform
Bamba was among the professional athletes who signed a letter with “More Than A Vote” to fight Black voter suppression in 2020. The nonprofit organization is focused on getting more Black Americans to the polls and has stated that “one solution that ‘More Than A Vote’ is working on is to convert as many arenas and sports facilities as possible into voting precincts.”
For his part, Bamba said he’s just trying to make the world a better place.
“I’m not a politician. I’m not really into politics, but I do see fit in learning as much as possible about current events and what’s going on in the world and doing what I can to be the change later and to see how I can impact it because, quite frankly, I have a platform and I want to use it the right way,” he said.
Magic CEO Alex Martins singled out Bamba during Wednesday’s news conference and applauded his leadership in getting Amway into the rotation for the county’s early-voting sites.
15th NBA team
Bamba also said he wants to help election workers during early voting. It’s likely the 7-footer will spend his time welcoming voters to Amway as a greeter, according to county Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles.
He said his department will be hiring the staff to handle the work associated with the election, but he would “incorporate some of the Magic players in the process.”
The Magic are joining NBA players and coaches in efforts to increase access to voting. The recently established social justice coalition comprised of players, coaches and team owners will focus on a range of issues that include access to voting.
The Magic are the 15th NBA team to make an arena or practice facility available for early voting.
The Magic have been working with Desmond Meade of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition to help with the organization’s voting awareness campaign. The team had its slogan — “Get off the bench. Get into the game. Vote.” — printed on T-shirts that players wore when they entered the NBA bubble last month at Walt Disney World. The T-shirts are now being sold to the public, with proceeds benefiting Meade’s organization.