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Texas Rising volunteers line up cars to help citizens register to vote during a drive-in voter registration hosted by Texas State Athletics, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in the Strahan Arena parking lot.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated with more information on which athletes voted during the early voting period.

In a year that has featured a global pandemic, racial injustice and an economic crisis, the one beacon of hope people are flocking to is the voting booth. At Texas State, that holds true for its Athletic Department, too.

One of the groups at the university encouraging students and the community to exercise their right to vote is Athletics' Johnny E. Brown Committee On Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.).

C.O.R.E. helped send voter registration surveys to all student-athletes, practice players and student managers to identify who was registered and who was eligible to register. On Sep. 30, the committee held an event where eligible student-athletes and staff were registered to vote.

The student-athlete chair of the Voter Registration subcommittee of C.O.R.E., sophomore basketball forward Chelsea Johnson, says the youth in Athletics need to build good voting habits now.

“We’re a younger generation, but at the same time, I think a lot of people realize that we are the future, and we can really impact change,” Johnson said. "If we start from a younger age, getting people educated, allowing people to understand why it’s important to vote, then this can just build tradition for the future.”

As a Black woman and first-time voter, Johnson says voting is a civic duty.

“People have died to get the right to vote,” Johnson said. “I think it would be a disgrace, as a person of color, not to vote knowing that my ancestors have literally put their lives on the line.”

On Aug. 28, as part of its Racial Equity Initiative, the Sun Belt Conference announced that all athletic programs would have Election Day off.

All eligible voters in men's and women's basketball, soccer, track and field, tennis and women's golf voted before the Oct. 30 early voting deadline. Alonzo Sule, junior basketball forward and member of the Education and Training subcommittee of C.O.R.E., is one of those players who voted early. Despite that, he understands the relief having Election Day off may provide to others.

“It’s a great comfort,” Sule said. “It’s good to see that [the Sun Belt is] taking initiative. They’re really trying to work on making [voting] something everyone can have easy access to...That’s huge.”

And although he thinks Athletics’ efforts to increase voter turnout is great, he says he does not want it to stop after this election.

“I feel like we should keep continuing to push voting,” Sule said. “It directly affects all of us. So if we can just have more people vote, we can have more of an understanding of who we actually want to be our leader.”

Historically in sports culture, speaking on social and political issues is viewed as taboo. Some athletes have been told to "shut up and dribble," while others have been criticized for demonstrating in their place of work. However, women’s basketball Head Coach Zenarae Antoine has made tough conversations a staple of her program.

“I think it’s important to represent who you are, no matter what aspect of career you are in,” Antoine said. “...Each one of us have a unique story. I don’t ever think it should be pushed aside and focus purely on the fact that you’re an athlete...I really bring that from my upbringing. It’s who I am and where I came from.”

"I have student-athletes that are trying, within this athletic piece of it, to find ways to reach out to other student-athletes to say ‘Hey! What can we do to use our platforms to make a change?’”

With Texas reporting high early voting turnout and Election Day voting on the horizon, she says she is hopeful for the future.

“I really believe in this generation,” Antoine said. “ I’ve never seen students mobilize like I have right now...I think that’s absolutely amazing to see...That means [students] care. I’m excited to see where this goes.”

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