The admission wasn’t easy, but Mike Hopkins felt the importance of leveling with his Washington men’s basketball team, which has engaged in a series of intimate conversations about race, social justice and politics over the past several months.
“I’m embarrassed to say this, I’m 51 years old and I’ve probably voted a handful of times,” Hopkins said “That’s society, and that’s sad.
“Many people, myself included, talk about wanting things to change and making it happen. Well, here’s a way. And it’s so simple. Vote.”
On Monday afternoon, the Huskies men’s and women’s basketball teams canvassed the UW campus urging folks to register for the upcoming November elections. They wore black T-shirts with a QR code that read: “Scan me. Register to vote.”
“We’ve been having talks with the team with what’s been going on in the world right now,” Hopkins said. “We just felt like one way we could be unified is go out and get people to vote. … Hopefully we can do this 2-3 more times in different neighborhoods. “
Hopkins credited UW sociology professor Alexes Harris for leading discussions this summer as the Huskies attempted to make sense of the racial reckoning occurring throughout the country following the police shooting of Jacob Blake and the killing of George Floyd, who died after being pinned under a white police officer’s knee.
“We’ve had the uncomfortable conversations and let me just say, they’ve been unbelievable.” Hopkins said. “We’ve all learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot. … Just talking through it. People had questions. People are hurting. Everybody has different emotions and feelings.
“Just to be able to talk about it. You never know how somebody walks until you walk in their shoes. It’s been a great learning experience and it’s gotten us a lot closer as a team. … And then you get to, what are you going to do. And that’s why we’re out here.”
Hameir Wright, 21, said he has never voted before, but the UW senior forward who grew up in Albany, N.Y., is eager to cast his ballot – by mail – in a few weeks.
“To be honest, I never understood the importance of voting,” Wright said. “When I turned 18, I didn’t have the chance to vote on the presidency and it wasn’t until I got older that I also knew there were other ballots that you can vote in your local community.”
Only a smattering of students were out on the UW campus enjoying a picturesque fall day, but Wright engaged in a few conversations about registering to vote.
“Most people are off put with COVID and the social interactions are weird, but I did get to talk to people today,” he said. “I felt like we did a lot with what we had today.”
Wright said he has been involved in social justice causes this summer and has participated in a couple of protests. He’s also becoming comfortable using his platform to influence positive change.
“You just realize that people in certain positions of power will try to silence those whose values don’t align with theirs,” Wright said. “People who fought for civil rights and human rights, I don’t believe that’s the vision that they had. Our vote gives us a voice and that’s the one thing that you can make sure you’re heard.”