GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) The 2020 election is coming in a year when we are hearing a number of voices weighing in on candidates and issues.
For many people, turning to sports is an escape when politics become too much to handle. But, leaders at East Carolina University Athletics are turning the table, using the election to educate their student-athletes and fans.
“You know, it’s something that is very important,” said Mike Houston, ECU Football Head Coach.
Head Coach Mike Houston is motivating his team to get out and vote this election.
“It’s something we encourage all of our guys to participate in and do their civic duty,” added Houston.
This past Summer, members of the Pirate Football team registered to vote in Pitt County or request an absentee ballot from their home state.
“A lot of them this would be the first big election they have voted in,” said Alex Dennis, Assistant Director at the ECU Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement.
For the 18 through 22-year-olds, this is a chance to have a voice in not only their community but their country as well.
“I think its our right as an American citizen,” added Houston. “We live in a democratic society where we get the opportunity to elect our leaders. I think it’s important that not only we, as adults, do that, but we also encourage and build positive habits with both our student-athletes and our youth that it is a right of theirs. It’s something that they should exercise and make an informed decision.”
It’s not the first time ECU student-athletes have taken a stand. In August, those students and some coaches marched across campus, showing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Voting is another way to have a voice.
“If you create the habit of voting and 18, 19, 20-years-old, it becomes a habit for life,” said Dennis.
Players coaches and university staff know that this year in particular, holds a lot on the line.
“Amazingly enough, it’s crazy to think about where we are as a nation but, on our campus and through these programs, the students are able to disagree and get along and move on and it’s okay,” explained Dennis.
ECU is hoping to motivate much more than just the players, they want fans to be heard too.
“The big thing for me is that I want them to be educated,” said Houston.
“I don’t care who you vote for, I just want you to register and be engaged,” added Dennis.
ECU Football is observing Election Day away from the field.
“We are taking Election Day off. We will practice on Monday. Our typical Tuesday will be moved to Monday and then Tuesday will be a day off to give the coaches and the players the opportunity to go vote,” said Houston
He explained during his interview that when they say “off” it does not mean their heads will be completely out of game preparations. The coaches will still be in the office. This day of observance allows everyone the opportunity to exercise their civic right.