US Sports Heroes Unite To Pressure Manchin On Voting Rights

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A group of prominent icons in sports have banded together for a new letter to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) in which they express steadfast support for certain proposals to protect voting rights, saying that they’re “united now in urging Congress to exercise its Constitutional responsibility to enact laws that set national standards for the conduct of Federal elections and for decisions that determine election outcomes.”

These sports leaders, including the University of Alabama football program’s head coach Nick Saban, former Los Angeles Laker and NBA executive Jerry West, and others, thereby shut down arguments from Republicans that voting rights proposals that are currently under consideration constitute overreach — and effectively (even if unintentionally) put Manchin on the spot in relation to his continued backing of the Senate’s filibuster rules, although Saban clarified that he wasn’t in favor of ditching the filibuster.

As has been well-documented, the Senate’s filibuster rules require that at least 60 Senators in the 100-member chamber agree before moving forward with most bills. The current party breakdown in the Senate means that the Republican minority in the chamber can therefore block progress, and even though Manchin has expressed support for voting rights proposals including the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, he’s refused to back taking the necessary procedural step of reforming the Senate’s filibuster rules that would allow for these proposals to actually pass.

Notably, Saban and West have previously campaigned for Manchin, so there’s already an avenue of sorts from their stances to the Senator. The letter addressed to Manchin reads, in part, as follows:

‘We strongly support urgently needed legislation that will protect both the rights of voters and the integrity of outcomes in all Federal elections. The Freedom to Vote Act, which you sponsored with Committee Chair Senator Klobuchar and other colleagues, effectively addressed these goals. Now we also support your leadership in shaping legislation to secure our democracy by protecting election integrity, principled Presidential transitions and our national security during transitions… [We] are all certain that democracy is best when voting is open to everyone on a level playing field; the referees are neutral; and at the end of the game the final score is respected and accepted.’

The letter writers also observed that principles of fair elections “are now under intentional and unprecedented challenge,” adding: “In the last year, some 20 states have enacted dozens of laws that restrict voting access and allow local officials or state legislatures to interfere inappropriately with Federal election outcomes.” Besides Saban and West, signatories include “former Houston Oiler and XFL commissioner Oliver Luck; former NFL linebacker Darryl Talley; and former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue,” The Washington Post notes, explaining that “most” have “ties to West Virginia.” Saban, for instance, is from there. Read more at this link.