A website backed by a prominent conservative advocacy organization is using LeBron James’ image in a misleading ad campaign to create fear about mail-in voting, the Washington Post reported.
James shared the story on Twitter. It is the exact issue his More Than A Vote coalition warned about — “deliberately lying to and misinforming Black voters” — in its first open letter released on Monday.
James’ image being used in voting misinformation
The website is called Protect My Vote and has been consistently promoted by FreedomWorks, a tax-exempt nonprofit aligned with causes for President Donald Trump’s reelection. It helped launch tea-party protests and has more than 5 million followers on Facebook.
The advertisements warn that voting with mail ballots results in “lost votes and lost rights,” per the Post. The idea is to create concern about the voting system and push the unsubstantiated claim that voting by mail is fraudulent.
An associated page is buying ads to get out the message and one of the sponsored ads includes the Los Angeles Lakers star.
They have an image of James and a misconstrued quote from him, per the Post. It is “falsely suggesting that when he condemned polling closures as ‘systemic racism and oppression,’ he was linking those closures to the expansion of opportunities to vote by mail.”
The campaign promoted by FreedomWorks that claims voter fraud is targeted at older Facebook users in Arizona, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, per the Post. They are or are becoming states that could have close contests.
What James actually said about voting
In June, during Georgia’s primaries, James asked on Twitter if “how we vote is also structurally racist?” The question arose after reports of long lines at precincts in minority communities versus short lines, if any, at predominately white neighborhoods.
James created More Than A Vote a few days later.
Weeks after that during Kentucky’s primary, he retweeted a report that the state cut the number of polling places from 3,700 to 200. In Jefferson County, where half of the state’s Black voters live, there was one polling place for 616,000 voters, per the report.
James wrote: “Said it last week about GA. This is SYSTEMIC RACISM and OPPRESSION. So angry man.”
James addresses wrong use of image
In sharing the Post story, James noted this was why More Than A Vote came together. One of the three threats for Black Americans voting, the group wrote, is disinformation.
He said he isn’t sure if there’s a legal route to take, but his team is “definitely trying to figure it out.”
Secondly, Nobody should be able to use my name (or anyone else name) to lie and deceive about the election. Not sure what we can do legally but definitely trying to figure it out! #StayWoke #LoveMyPeople✊🏾
— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 21, 2020
Adam Mendelsohn, a longtime advisor to the three-time NBA champion, called the ads “shameless” and “reprehensible,” per the Post. He also said lawyers are looking into it.
James, athletes pushing voting education
Jiore Craig is the vice president of GQR, a research firm that is advising Democratic campaigns on voting disinformation. He said this type of “voter suppression” campaign is “one of the most dangerous disinformation tactics we monitor on social media.”
“The fact this group is taking statements about genuine voter suppression from people like LeBron James and twisting them to lure people to actual voter suppression messages and misinformation is a testament to how far they will go to keep people from turning out in this election.”
James and his professional athlete peers are already taking action against campaigns such as these by getting out information about voting rights, how voting suppression works and what people can do to have a fair and balanced election.
The WNBA Players Association has made voting a key tenant of its social justice council. And the Sacramento Kings re-launched their Rally the Vote campaign that consists of 20 teams from the NBA, WNBA, MLS, NWSL, NFL, MLB and Athletes Unlimited.
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