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College coaches and teams want the NCAA to encourage voting -- by giving athletes Election Day off

A Georgia Tech assistant basketball coach is leading calling the charge for the NCAA to make Election Day a mandatory day-off for college athletics.

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Rachel Janfaza
CNN — A Georgia Tech assistant basketball coach is leading calling the charge for the NCAA to make Election Day a mandatory day-off for college athletics.

The movement, #AllVoteNoPlay, started when a Zoom call inspired the coach, Eric Reveno, to take a stand. Since he first issued the call-to-action last week, other coaches and athletes, both at the college and professional level, have stated their support.

Reveno is adamant that the NCAA make the move to demonstrate the importance of civic engagement to the almost half a million college athletes eligible to vote this November -- and in all elections moving forward.

"The reason I coach is because I want to help our guys be the best they can be. I don't know why I haven't included civic responsibility in this formula. We teach about financial responsibility, health, nutrition, getting enough sleep. But the most fundamental part of being an American is civic responsibility," Reveno told CNN.

Reveno, who believes that voting is a habit that should be formed at a young age, said that as a national organization, the NCAA has a responsibility to make the day a holiday so that leading college athletes are taught to understand the importance of civic duty not just this year, but also down the line. While Reveno understands that college athletes could vote by mail, he said the focus on voting and the conversation around it, including education about civic responsibility, would set a precedent.

"I believe in the NCAA as one of the most impactful 501c3s in our country, intertwined in the fabric of America, having these student athletes that are campus leaders. I feel like it's the perfect organization to help change that," he said.

Reveno has started a petition to garner support. According to Reveno, the petition has about 4,000 signatures, many of which are from college athletes who recognize the need for this type of change from the organization.

The NCAA did not immediately return a request for comment.

The #AllVoteNoPlay movement grows amid the backdrop of ongoing national protests and calls for racial justice. On Wednesday, NBA star LeBron James announced a new organization, More Than a Vote, which will focus on protecting voting rights for African Americans. James has teamed up with other black athletes and entertainers to combat voter suppression and disenfranchisement ahead of November.

The idea for #AllVoteNoPlay came to Reveno after his team had a Zoom call on June 1, following the death of George Floyd and the ongoing protests against racial injustice and police brutality.

"When it got to my turn on the call, I got emotional. I told the team that as a 54-year-old white guy, I'm embarrassed. That these players would sit there with such heavy hearts. My generation was supposed to leave things better and have moved things ahead. We're not where we should be," Reveno told CNN. "I said I will do better. I've got to do better."

Following his coach's words, Malachi Rice, a rising senior on the team, encouraged his teammates to take action by voting this fall.

"During the Zoom call, that was heavy on my heart," Rice, 21, told CNN.

Inspired by Rice's call to action on the Zoom call, Reveno took to Twitter starting June 2 in support of his athletes.

"Federal Election Day, Nov 3rd, needs to be an NCAA mandatory off day. We must empower, educate and guide our athletes to be part of change. We need action. There is symbolism in every holiday and it's powerful," he tweeted on June 3.

Reveno's #AllVoteNoPlay initiative received immediate support and the National Association of Basketball Coaches stepped up, recommending five core categories of action steps for student-athlete engagement.

By June 4, nine Georgia Tech teams had committed to taking November 3 off in honor of Election Day, including the school's football team.

Other college teams also are catching on, committing to a day off on Election Day.

Boston College's basketball team, Gonzaga's basketball team, as well as 22 teams at George Mason will take the day off from mandatory practice and athletics related activity. In addition to a day off, the teams are also committing to getting their players registered to vote and engaged in civics through discussion and education.

Professional players and coaches have also advocated for the policy change.

Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr offered his support for the movement, tweeting, "I love this idea."

Jason Collins, a former NBA athlete who also played for Reveno in the late 1990s at Stanford, tweeted, "Proud of my former coach!!!"

According to Rice, the Georgia Tech basketball team, including those who hadn't spent a lot of time thinking about voting before, has welcomed the idea. Since the initial Zoom call, Rice and his teammates have discussed their collective responsibility to do their part in affecting change, recognizing that many hadn't previously focused on voting or its potential impact.

"We've started an initiative for student athletes to show the importance of voting, that their voice counts and that politics is important. You need to know what's going on in the world," Rice said. "As an athlete, it's either books or in my case basketball, but we need to show them that this is important and it's a part of maturing."

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