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Anquan Boldin Tells Us How Players Coalition Is Attacking Voter Suppression In Florida

Players Coalition is donating $20,000 towards efforts to pay fines and restore the right to vote for people with past felony convictions in Florida.

With the 2020 Presidential Election looming in November and so much at stake for this country, voting rights, voter registration and voter suppression in Black and Brown communities have moved to the forefront of America’s pressing issues (along with COVID-19, police brutality and social injustice)

In support of a fair and all-inclusive voting process for 2020, the Players Coalition is donating $20,000 towards efforts to restore the right to vote for people with past felony convictions in Florida. The donation will go towards Florida Rights Restoration Coalition’s (FRRC) Fines and Fees program, which assists returning citizens who have outstanding fees to complete their sentences and become eligible to vote. 

Anquan Boldin is Co-Founder of the Players Coalition and a recently retired veteran of the National Football League. The Players Coalition rose to prominence in the fight for social justice when Boldin and his fellow members brokered a controversial but effective $89 million deal with the NFL to help fight social injustice.  

The FRRC’s Fines and Fees program is important to securing social justice and is very personal to Boldin, a former college star at Florida State University. 

The Shadow League spoke to Boldin, the 2003 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, three-time Pro Bowler receiver and Super Bowl XLVII champion, in the aftermath of the Jacob Blake shooting. 

“For me, I live in Florida so it’s something that touches home for me,” Boldin told The Shadow League.” I have family members that are affected by it. My brother is 42 and he lost his opportunity to vote before he was of age to vote. I also have a brother-in-law in his mid-40s and this will be the first time that he’s able to vote as well having lost his voting rights at a young age. So I think every American should have the ability to vote.”

The passage of Amendment 4 in Florida in November 2018 ended a 150-year-old lifetime voting ban for 1.4 million Florida citizens with past felony convictions. Since the law passed, tens of thousands of those individuals have registered to vote across the state. Under the law, people with past felony convictions who have not completed all terms of their sentences must either pay the fees and fines they owe or get their sentence modified as a condition of registering to vote. 

“At one point,” Boldin tells TSL, “Florida was only one of three states that didn’t automatically restore voting rights to formally convicted felons and obviously we were far behind on that, but our coalition talks about wanting everyone to be a part of our justice system and having everybody have a voice and there’s no bigger voice than your choice to vote… but when you try to take that from people where does that leave them in our society?

Though initiated by NFL players and inspired by Colin Kaepernick’s “anthem protests” and the continued cycle of police brutality towards people of color, the advocacy organization works with professional athletes, coaches and owners across all major sports leagues to improve social justice and racial equality in our country.

“Many of us consider the ability to vote our basic right as Americans, but that is not the case for millions of people. The community’s support in removing financial roadblocks so our citizens can register to vote is critical,” said Chris Archer, of the Players Coalition and pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. “Players Coalition and FRRC will continue to advocate for these citizens to restore this basic right, especially those who are disenfranchised and historically underrepresented.”

“In 2018, we advocated for the successful passage of Amendment 4, which restored voting rights for those who have committed a past felony and completed their sentences. This year, more than 1 million Floridians should be able to vote in the elections because of the passage of Amendment 4,” said Stan Van Gundy, Players Coalition advocate and former NBA coach. “However, many citizens are still unable to register to vote until all fines and fees have been paid for, even though they have paid their debt to society. Our efforts with FRRC will continue to advocate for the restoration of rights for Floridians so their voices can be heard.”

Boldin says it’s all part of a voter suppression game being executed by lawmakers and local government to discourage the Black vote. 

“Without the financial assistance of the Player’s Coalition,” says Boldin, “we would lose a lot of voters. Out of those 1.4 million people that got their rights restored I’m not sure how many owed fines and fees, but I’m pretty sure it’s a large number of people. And originally restoring voting rights had nothing to do with paying restitution. It was just automatically restoring voting rights for those who had lost the ability to vote. 

Then because we got that passed here in Florida, then they tried to come out with stipulations, which is just another form of trying to oppress people from being able to vote.”

According to Boldin, other areas of focus for Players Coalition right now are the following:

Police Shootings of Unarmed Black Men Like George Floyd & Jacob Blake 

Anquan Boldin: Every time you see something like this happen on the news just highlight the reason why we are doing this work. Lots of people want us to think that we’re living in a post-racial America when that’s far from the truth. Too often you have to turn on your television and you see these images going across the screen. For us, we’re not living in this great country we think we’re living in. Until we come together as a country and work together we are going to be here, in the same place, over and over.

COVID-19 Attacks Black & Brown Communities

Anquan Boldin: One thing that COVID-19 pandemic has done is really shine a light on the disparity between races. You see how COVID-19 has affected Black and Brown communities more than any other community in America. It’s always been that way, but the pandemic highlighted the injustice. Just something as simple as getting testing done is difficult in these communities. 

Therefore, We’ve partnered with different organizations and made sure we have been able to bring testing to communities that were benign overlooked and did not have access to certain resources. We put money into those communities and went out and did the work ourselves. 

WIFI Access For Equal Education

Anquan Boldin: Also when COVID first hit we were talking about all of the kids doing virtual learning, but a lot of kids don’t have access to WIFI. So we have stepped in and made sure the kids have access to these resources. Even pre-COVID there was an educational gap between the Black and Brown communities and the rest of America. So if you go virtual, and kids don’t have access to WIFI, then how can they log in and have the ability to learn? So for us as a Coalition, we try to highlight that and also make sure those resources are available to the kids.  

Addressing Lack Of Black Leadership, Ownership In The NFL 

Anquan Boldin: For us, we always champion to try and get more Black faces into positions of leadership in the NFL. I don’t think it’s any secret that the positions of leadership do not reflect how the league looks towards the bottom. You can count on one hand how many minority coaches and GMs you have, so we will forever be an organization that continues to champion equality across the board. Not just players, but those who are in a position of power to make a difference. We want to make sure that upper management also reflects what the league actually looks like. 

The fight for racial equality in the world is being led by athletes, former athletes and organizations like Players Coalition. Voting is a constitutional right that no person should be barred from due to their economic status. FRRC and Players Coalition remains dedicated to breaking barriers and increasing inclusivity.  

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