Shocking or not? Certainly a surprise. Shaquille O’Neal told his podcast listeners this week that he just voted – for the first time in his life! And “and it feels good.”
As you’ve watched the NBA playoffs from “the bubble” in Orlando, there’s no way you could have missed the various commercials and on-court messages about social justice and lots more. One of the big things the league has been pushing is the “get out and vote” message, with many of the league’s star players making the pitch to be sure people are properly registered in advance, and then get out and vote, either by mail (in advance) or on Election Day. It’s a message that’s been repeated by other sports leagues as well, especially the NFL.
While the messages have been going out to voters (and would-be voters) like you and me, the messages are also for internal use, as they say. Seems statistics show very few NBA players vote. By one estimate, only 20 percent of players voted in the 2016 presidential election, compared to a 55.5 percent overall voter turnout. Crazy!
Kinda weird, considering how much the NBA has been pushing the social justice issues, including Black Lives Matter, and others. No matter what the issue, it all starts with the power of voting. The league (and players) have been pushing that message hard. Every player wore a shirt with a big, bold “VOTE” on the back during pregame warmups.
Still, with the low registration numbers among players, the goal for the NBPA (Players Association) has been to get as many as 90 percent of the players registered to vote. For many, it’ll be their first time.
Now it seems that same storyline applies to our man Shaq as well. On the “The Big Podcast with Shaq,” the Laker legend revealed that this year was the FIRST time he’s personally voted. Strange, since he was one of the driving forces behind the #MyStartingFive challenge, which helps and encourages people to register to vote in the 2020 election. Apparently the big man took his own advice.
Shaq: “Ladies and gentlemen, I have a confession. You know I always like being honest on my podcast. I’ve never voted before, America. But now I’m doing all these voting campaigns, and you know one thing I never like to do is be a hypocrite. So the other day, I got my absentee ballot. … In other words America, I voted for the first time, and it feels good.”
Needless to say, the news came as a shock to everyone who heard it, including O’Neal’s co-hosts on the show. Remember back to Game 1 of the Finals? There was Shaq, sitting in the virtual stands. Right next to him was former President Barack Obama. Shaq says he’s friends with Obama…but if this is indeed the first year he’s voted, it seems O’Neal never voted for Obama (or anyone else, for that matter.)
On the podcast, O’Neal talked openly about his confusion with the electoral college, and specifically mentioned the 2016 presidential election in which Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton despite losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes.
Of course as we know, even though he’s never voted, Shaq has been active as a donor and fundraiser in the past for various causes, including, yes, voting campaigns.
Shaq holds a long list of major awards and records from the game he played and loves. He’s got a trophy room that’s well… Shaq-sized. Now at 48 years old, O’Neal can add first-time voter to his list of honors.
So…if Shaq can do it, so can you. Vote!