TAMPA — With conversations about social justice reform reverberating throughout the sporting world, the Bucs launched an initiative Monday designed to help people register to vote and raise awareness about the importance of voting.
The Bucs teamed up with “I am a voter,” a non-profit, non-partisan group that helps promote voter registration and participation. By texting BUCSVOTE to 26797, fans can check to see if they’re registered to vote, get registered, request a mail-in ballot or learn more about the voting process.
This is the result of several meetings by the team’s player-driven Social Justice Initiative, born two years ago to focus on police relations, criminal justice reform, racial equality, workforce development and youth empowerment. This year, getting out in the community has been more difficult amid a pandemic.
The team is focusing on voting empowerment this season, and discussions took place before last week’s player sit-outs in the NBA, MLB, MLS, WNBA and NHL to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by officers in Kenosha, Wis.
Representatives from the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office are visiting the AdventHealth Training Center this week to help players, coaches and staff register to vote. Those eligible to register locally can do so onsite, and representatives can help those living out of the county register or get mail-in ballots in their jurisdictions.
“We (are) making sure all our players are registered to vote,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said Monday. “We have voting information here to make sure every single player is registered to vote today and tomorrow. Our council has talked — we’ve got some great ideas for what the social justice program is going to do this year.”
In the BucsVote social media campaign video released Monday, several players tell why voting is important, including receiver Mike Evans, who said he didn’t vote in the 2016 election, “but now I’m taking the steps to set the example.”
“We want to inspire everyone to register and to vote,” Bucs co-owner Darcie Glazer Kassewitz said in a statement. “This is an important cause to all of us — Buccaneers players and staff, fans and the entire NFL community — and every vote counts. BUCSVOTE embraces the opportunity to have our voices heard and is part of the team’s overall commitment to achieving social justice and creating meaningful, positive change in the community.”
The Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Rowdies, USF and the Tampa Bay Sports Commission also will participate in National Poll Workers Recruitment Day on Tuesday, using their forums to encourage individuals to become election workers. Each organization will offer its employees paid time off to volunteer as poll workers.
To scrimmage or not?
Arians said that Friday’s scheduled practice at Raymond James Stadium might not be an actual scrimmage as initially planned but instead a normal practice that will give players another opportunity to get a feel for the stadium.
“I’d like to get back over there,” Arians said. “I don’t know if we’ll actually do a live, tackling scrimmage, but we plan on having a practice over there similar to what we practice here, but be in the stadium to get some of the same atmosphere and hopefully the (artificial crowd) noise again when Tom (Brady) is out there.”
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After the Bucs emerged from last week’s scrimmage with a couple of injuries to key starters — running back Ronald Jones had a left foot injury and cornerback Carlton Davis injured his right shoulder — Arians expressed concern about having another one. Without organized team activities and preseason games, teams across the league have been forced to have more tackling sessions than they usually would hold.
Arians said there are “probably six or eight spots” still up for grabs on the 53-man regular season-roster. Expanded practice squad rosters — teams can carry 16 players, up from 10 last season — can help teams develop players thanks to the lost time caused by the pandemic.
Arians said the expanded practice squad may allow the Bucs to keep one more specialist — like a kicker, punter or long snapper.
“This is a unique year to where you could possibly have those type of players on your practice squad, preferably a guy who can punt and kick would be an eligible practice squad guy, and a player who can snap, but can also play just in case of the virus,” Arians said.
Quote of the Day
“Tom was upset, probably as upset as I was. He wasn’t as sharp as he’s been, either. Like I told him — in the middle of practice, if you have to start saying, ‘Hey, let’s go, let’s go,’ it’s way too late. Today was a great practice (for) both sides.”
— Arians on whether Tom Brady also was disappointed with the offense’s practice on Sunday.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.