LA Sparks' Chiney Ogwumike Explains Decision to Be Poll Worker During Election

Jenna CiccotelliCorrespondent IOctober 29, 2020

Los Angeles Sparks Chiney Ogwumike #13 in action against the New York Liberty during a WNBA basketball game, Saturday, July 20, 2019, in White Plains, N.Y. The Liberty won the game 83-78. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Gregory Payan/Associated Press

L.A. Sparks forward and ESPN analyst Chiney Ogwumike won't be on the court or on the airwaves on Election Day. She'll be working the polls. 

In an essay penned for Cosmopolitan, Ogwumike explained her decision as one rooted in privilege and necessity amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as she learned that there would be an influx of in-person voting in her hometown: 

"I am privileged to work for a company that is allowing it, and I'm blessed to be able to take a day off work without losing pay. Second, because it's needed. In most election years, the older generation has predominantly manned the polling stations. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affecting elderly people, it's important for us young, healthy folks to carry the torch."

Ogwumike opted out of the 2020 WNBA season, citing medical reasons, but worked alongside other Black athletes and artists including Alvin Kamara, CC Sabathia, Damian Lillard and Jaylen Brown for LeBron James' More than a Vote organization, which was formed with the goal of "combating systemic, racist voter suppression by educating, energizing and protecting our community." 

"I've also been so inspired by my WNBA colleagues this season, standing up for their beliefs both on and off the court, and this is my way to contribute to moving that needle for change," Ogwumike wrote.

Ogwumike urged readers to sign up to be poll workers themselves, in addition to ensuring that those around them vote on Tuesday. 

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The first overall pick in the 2014 draft, Ogwumike will be working at Houston's Toyota Center on Election Day along with her three sisters, including fellow Sparks star Nneka. She wrote that her upcoming visit to the home of the NBA's Rockets will look different than it did when she had visited previously.

"The last time I was there, I remember hanging court-side with my big sis, watching James Harden and company fight for a victory," she wrote. "But now we are in the fight for our lives."