There was no escaping this election. For months it’s captured the attention of not only Americans, but the entire world – and for good reason.
The right to vote and the privilege to live in a democracy are things often taken for granted. When reading that nearly 90 million eligible voters did not take to the polls it leaves one wondering, what’s it going to take to get people invested?
I’ll leave the dissection of the lackluster turnout to the experts. I’m writing today to talk about something that has been bouncing around in my brain the entire day.
The highest-paid public employee in the state of Alabama claimed when asked at a press conference today that he didn’t even know Tuesday was Election Day. “It was so important to me that I didn’t even know it was happening. We’re focused on other things here,” he said.
I get it. He’s a football coach. His job description is to captain his team to success on the football field among many other related duties. Apparently the attention to character development of student athletes is buried somewhere down near his Little Debbie stipulation in his robust contract.
“If I say I like one person, that means everybody that voted for the other person doesn’t like me,” Saban said. And he’s right. In no way should a person in his position influence other voters on who they should elect.
But did one of the most powerful leaders of men in the world miss an opportunity to highlight the importance of the election and voting to many young adults who are experiencing their first election in which they are eligible to vote?
Let’s take a look an alternative route taken by two Division 1 college basketball coaches.
The North Carolina men’s head basketball coach and fellow bearer of rings, Roy Williams, took a very different approach.
Sure, I’m assuming since Saban didn’t know that it was Election Day that he also didn’t speak with his staff and team on the importance of voting and what it means to hold that privilege.
When I heard the Saban story at 7:15 this morning on a local sports radio show, within minutes I became disappointed and confused. It shook me enough that I made a point to ask first year UAB men’s basketball coach Rob Ehsan about how he handled the election with his team.
“We talked about it as a team Monday night,” he said. “We discussed the influence of all the media attention on the election and the importance of it all, and how it could effect them.”
I didn’t prod past that point. It very well could have been a one minute conversation Ehsan had with his team. What’s important is that he knew, even as a six month old head coach at 34, that the student athletes he was responsible for might want to talk about their concerns, or maybe ask the simple question of “How do I vote?”
If you believe politics have no place in sports, that’s your decision and I’ll respect it. For me, empowering and educating our youth to know the importance of a right millions do not have is far heavier weighted than some game played on Saturday.