NBA star LeBron James and NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace face stiff competition for this year’s People’s Choice “Game Changer” award. And voting is set to end soon.
James and Wallace were nominated along with NBA legend Michael Jordan, who will be Wallace’s NASCAR team owner next season. They were chosen in addition to tennis stars Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams, NFL quarterback Russell Wilson, WNBA standout Sabrina Ionescu, and Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, a press release said.
The transformation of LeBron James
Both Wallace and James have been outspoken leaders of their sports. James, whose Lakers are leading the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, has been extremely vocal in the fight for racial justice.
Since the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the shooting of Jacob Blake, James has been very public about his frustrations. He’s used his platform to demand police be held accountable and to get people to vote in November.
“Change doesn’t happen with just talk!!” James tweeted earlier this season. “It happens with action and needs to happen NOW! For my @IPROMISESchool kids, kids and communities across the country, it’s on US to make a difference. Together. That’s why your vote is @morethanavote. #BlackLivesMatter.”
This work, however, isn’t without its backlash. Several people say they’ll no longer watch the NBA because of players like James who have taken political positions. Ratings for the NBA playoffs are way down this year, and “players playing politics” is one of the driving factors.
Bubba Wallace pushing sport to face its past
Wallace became a cultural figure earlier this summer when he demanded NASCAR remove the Confederate Flag from its racetracks. He recently opened up to Esquire his feelings over the decision to ban the stars and bars from NASCAR.
“Removing something doesn’t mean that it’s gonna be instantly better. There’s gonna be people that are still carrying that pride, that want to voice their opinion on who should be there, who should not,” Wallace told the magazine. “Hey, let us handle that, you know? I’ve said the last couple weeks: no one should feel any different than going to a NASCAR race than they do going to an NBA game, NFL game, [or an] MLB game.”
He said he decided to publicly ask for the removal of the Confederate Flag following the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.
Like James, Wallace has faced stiff opposition from some for his outspoken stance on racial injustice.
Voting for the People’s Choice Award “Game Changer of 2020” ends on Oct. 23. Votes can be cast here.