LeBron James announced Wednesday that he and several other professional athletes plan to found a charitable organization to protect black Americans’ voting rights, five months ahead of the presidential election, The New York Times reported.
The move comes as mammoth protests have swept the United States and the world calling for an end to hundreds of years of racial discrimination against black people.
“We feel like we’re getting some ears and some attention, and this is the time for us to finally make a difference,” James told the Times.
The organization, called More Than A Vote, aims to encourage African Americans to register to vote and to show up to the polls for the November 3 elections.
The group will also fight against any factors that could contribute to African Americans’ disenfranchisement.
“Yes, we want you to go out and vote, but we’re also going to give you the tutorial,” James told the Times. “We’re going to give you the background of how to vote and what they’re trying to do, the other side, to stop you from voting.”
James, who has more than 135 million followers across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, said he plans to use social media to denounce attempts to limit voting by racial minorities.
“King James” himself will finance the project, joined by basketball players Trae Young and Jalen Rose, football player Alvin Kamara and comedian Kevin Hart.
The group plans to collaborate with other get-out-the-vote organizations, the newspaper reported, including When We All Vote and Fair Fight.
The initiative comes as the U.S. grapples with renewed anger over racism and police violence after the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man who was killed last month when a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
James had expressed his own anger on Instagram, posting Floyd’s last words “I can’t breathe.”
But James’ voting rights move immediately drew pushback from leading Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong, who tweeted about James’ failure to back protesters there:
The voting movement is not the Los Angeles Laker’s first foray into politics. He appeared at a campaign event for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Nor is it his first charitable endeavor: He has offered university scholarships through the LeBron James Family Foundation and even set up a school for third through eighth graders in his home state of Ohio.
James also heads a production studio producing a documentary about the massacre of approximately 300 African Americans in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921.