ORLANDO, Fla. – The city of Orlando, the Orlando Magic and the Orange County Supervisor of Elections have teamed up to transform the Amway Center into an early voting site.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles and Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins made the announcement Wednesday afternoon from the Amway Center.
The site will be open to Orange County residents from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 19 through Nov. 1. Anyone who comes to the site will find coronavirus safety measures in place, a drive-thru ballot drop off location on Church Street and maybe even Orlando Magic players like Mo Bamba greeting voters at the entrance.
“I think it’ll attract more turnout, I think there’s a unique opportunity. It’s not often we have the Amway Center available during early voting because it would be during the NBA season, so we’re fortunate to be able to do this and I think there’s going to be a uniqueness to be able to come vote here and I think some people will want to come and be part of this movement and actually vote at the Amway Center,” Dyer said.
Across the NBA, other teams have opted to offer their arenas up as early voting locations. For the Magic, it was Bamba who spearheaded the effort.
“Voting to me is the most American thing you can do for a democracy to work,” Bamba said.
Martins said players have been passionate about voter engagement and they hope to set a good example for some of their fans, many of whom will be eligible to vote for the first time in their lives.
“You have the ability to impact change by who you vote for and if change is needed in our communities -- which we do need change, obviously, based on the social injustice going on -- you can personally impact that by voting for someone who is going to impact that change, and is going to change it in a way that you feel is in the right direction. And that’s what I’ve heard from the players consistently, you know, not just our players but from most players throughout the NBA,” Martins said.
The announcement comes after the Magic are now out of the NBA bubble. Orlando’s hometown team lost Game 5 of the NBA playoffs to the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Disney resort.
The game, originally scheduled for Aug. 26, was rescheduled after the Bucks refused to leave the locker room after a Black man was shot in the back seven times by police in their home state. According to family, Jacob Blake is now paralyzed.
Distraught over the events and demonstrations in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Bucks sparked a league-wide boycott with NBA players refusing to play in the playoffs in protest of racial injustice.
[WATCH: NBA players boycott playoffs at Disney]
While players and teams from baseball, the WNBA and MLS sat out their competitions last week, NBA players and coaches met for nearly three hours in a Disney hotel to determine the next steps after garnering national attention with their boycott. The Orlando Magic and head coach Steve Clifford met with Orange County Sheriff John Mina to discuss policing in the community, according to the team.
The NBA also created a social justice coalition made up of players, coaches and other stakeholders to address racial and criminal justice, policing, community engagement and establishing NBA arenas as voting locations.