“Democracy doesn’t work if just a few people do it — that’s like playing with half the team," former President Barack Obama said as he spoke about the importance of voting in the upcoming election

By Maria Pasquini
October 01, 2020 11:51 AM
Barack Obama
| Credit: David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

The virtual audience for Game 1 of the NBA Finals included a number of famous faces, including former President Barack Obama.

The 44th president had a front and center seat for the first face-off between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat, which the Lakers ended up winning 116-98.

“I hear I’m sitting next to [Shaquille O'Neal],” Obama, 59, said in a fun video as he surprised his virtual seatmates, which also included Dwyane Wade as well as a group of 40 first-time poll workers.

Obama also took the opportunity to remind everyone watching of the importance of voting in the upcoming presidential election.

“I am honestly not the main event tonight but I wanted to come on to give a shout-out to all the folks who are volunteering as poll workers in this upcoming election. It can be a thankless job, it’s not one of those things you think about, but it is absolutely vital for our democracy and I appreciate you,” he said. “And hopefully all NBA fans will appreciate you when they see shorter lines at the polling places.”

Democracy doesn’t work if just a few people do it — that’s like playing with half the team. But it’s only that way if people aren’t participating,” he added. “If people get involved then we get the best of us and that’s what I’m hoping is gonna happen.”

Barack Obama
| Credit: David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

“Always look forward to watching the NBA Finals — and tonight I had the chance to thank a great group of first-time poll workers with @morethanavote,” Obama wrote on Twitter, giving a shout-out to More Than a Vote, a nonprofit spearheaded by Lakers star LeBron James, which is dedicated to protecting against voter suppression as well as motivating Black voters to go to the polls this year.

“It’s critical that everybody votes in this election––by mail or in person if you can,” Obama continued, sharing a link with helpful information about voting.

Ahead of the game, the nonprofit announced that they had reached a major goal: signing up 10,000 volunteer poll workers.

"We marched. We demanded change. Now, we're ensuring our voices are heard. 10,000 new poll workers,” the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which worked in partnership with More Than a Vote on the initiative, wrote online.

The two groups will now begin a second phase of the registration push, targeted at 11 cities “where significant poll worker shortages remain,” according to The New York Times — including cities in battleground states with significant Black populations.