Senate

West Virginia sports stars urge Manchin to support voting rights legislation

A group of West Virginia sports icons have addressed a letter to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) urging him to back voting rights legislation.

The sports stars, led by NBA Hall-of-Famer Jerry West, a college star at West Virginia, said they strongly supported legislation to protect voting rights and election integrity.

“We come from some of our Nation’s most popular sports leagues, conferences and teams. Some of us have roots and shaped our lives in West Virginia, others followed very different paths and some of us have been rivals in sports or business. But we are all certain that democracy is best when voting is open to everyone on a level playing field; the referees are neutral; and at the end of the game the final score is respected and accepted,” they wrote in their letter, which was sent on Manchin on Tuesday.

The letter was also signed by Alabama football coach Nick Saban, who went to high school in West Virginia; former NFL quarterback Oliver Luck, who is also a former West Virginia athletic director; former Buffalo Bills linebacker Darryl Talley, who graduated from West Virginia and is a member of its sports hall of fame; and former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue. 

While Saban signed the letter, CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins reported that he asked to include a footnote noting his opposition to removing the Senate filibuster, a proposal Democrats have floated to advance voting rights bills.

“Coach Saban is not in favor of getting rid of the filibuster in the Senate. He believes this will destroy the checks and balances we must have in our Democracy,” the footnote read. “The others signing this letter take no position on this aspect of Senate policies.” 

The letter otherwise makes no reference to the Senate filibuster rules, which Democrats have pushed to change in order to advance the voting rights legislation with a simple majority.

However, Democrats would need the support of Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to create an exception to the filibuster for voting rights legislation. Both have refused to do so, leaving in-tact the chamber’s current 60-vote threshold.

The sports stars did express support for legislation that they said would keep elections open to all Americans and ensure impartial conduct and scorekeeping. It noted that Manchin himself is a sponsor of the Freedom to Vote Act.

“We strongly support urgently needed legislation that will protect both the rights of voters and the integrity of outcomes in all Federal elections,” the letter said. “The Freedom to Vote Act, which you sponsored with Committee Chair Senator Klobuchar and other colleagues, effectively addressed these goals.”

Updated: 2:42 p.m.

Tags Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema Nick Saban voting rights legislation West Virginia

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