In a world where athletes are advised to “shut up and dribble,” the Goshen College women’s basketball team has chosen to do just the opposite.
For the first time ever, all 15 players on the team roster are registered to vote. They all plan to cast their ballots in the November presidential election.
These players include residents of Indiana as well as Iowa, Michigan and Ohio, all of whom have requested absentee ballots and plan to hold a “Voting Day” on Oct. 20.
This group of young women have recently created a promotional video to raise social media awareness on the importance of voting.
What will take place on Oct. 20?
The team will come together under one roof, fill out their absentee ballots side by side, and celebrate this monumental moment.
When asked what inspired this effort, the head women’s basketball coach, Stephanie Miller, said she couldn’t help but sit back and smile.
“Keyaira Murff. I give all the credit to her,” Miller said. “She proposed the idea and after discussing it with our leadership team, she began organizing the event.”
The senior captain, Keyaira Murff, said, “My idea to hold a Voting Day really started with this year’s protest for Black Lives Matter. I wanted to do something where we could all be united together and be heard. If you don’t like what is going on in politics or you don’t like the people repressing you, then you have the right and the chance to change it.”
She added, “This is my way of helping people have their voices heard. For me personally, being a black woman, too many people have fought and died for me not to vote.”
The U.S. Census Bureau makes clear that historically, young adults have voted at lower rates than the older cohorts; however, there is untapped electoral power since Millennials and Gen Z now represent a larger voting bloc than Baby Boomers. This is a statistic that cannot go unnoticed.
In hopes of encouraging young voters to use their voices and exercise their right to vote, this group of women has extended an invitation to the rest of the Goshen College athletic department to join them and are still awaiting responses.
The term “young voters” is described by the U.S. Census Bureau as 18-24 year olds.
In the 2016 presidential election, these young voters cast 19% of all votes, a percentage that Miller feels is not high enough.
“There is a growing momentum for young voters to take charge and I’m encouraged by that,” Miller said, “Young voters have a lot of power and they don’t even realize it.”
A senior point guard, Mariah Roe, fit into this 19% of young voters that chose to use their voices in the 2016 election.
She said, “I believe that if you waste your opportunity to vote, then you do not have a right to complain about how things turn out for this country. As a mixed female, I want to honor those before me who have fought for my right to vote.”
Moving on, there is a preconceived idea that politics don’t belong in sports and the Goshen College women’s basketball team is working to change that stigma.
Miller emphasized, “I very strongly believe that politics has a place in any space where people have the courage to use their voice. That would include sports platforms and people who have recognizable faces and have the power to influence.”
Looking at a national scale, millions of Americans watch LeBron James perform at a high level and jeopardize his body every night to entertain the public. Miller believes that if James decides to share his political opinion after giving fans 48 minutes of joy, he has all the power to do so.
LeBron James’ profession goes far beyond being a basketball player, the players believe, and it would be dishonorable if he listened to those telling him to just “shut up and dribble.”
The players believe the same goes for Goshen College student-athletes.
The women’s basketball team is hoping to reach a much larger audience than just those within the athletic department.
“I hope everyone who hears about our Voting Day is inspired to vote,” Murff said. “We should all make a choice to do something about the political climate to either change it, or keep it if desired.”
Roe added, “I am very proud of my team for registering to vote and using their platform in a positive way. Us being young adult females using our voices will hopefully encourage our peers to get out and do the same.”
Murff said the team wants to counter the perception that personal votes don’t make a difference.
“I feel like my voice definitely matters,” she said. “It might not be the loudest but my one vote gets the person I pick closer to office.”
Miller affirmed that view: “I agree that this is a negative stigma that people have in the United States and so many people give away their voting opportunity because they think it’s insignificant; however, choices in this country are made up by the individual voices.”
In the words of Murff, “Let your voices be heard.”