Alabama coach Nick Saban said on Tuesday that he would not endorse an upcoming presidential candidate, but would encourage his players to register to vote.
“We have had several voter registration education programs here recently,” Saban said as part of his opening statement for his video press conference. “The Alabama athletics civic engagement initiative is something that we try to continue to raise awareness of the importance of voting for everyone. I was very proud of our players and their response to registering to vote, be[ing] prepared and educated on how they can vote for absentees. So I was very satisfied with it.
“And I know it’s kind of over there that – I can tell you we don’t support any candidate.” I have never endorsed a candidate, I will never endorse a candidate or get involved in politics in any way, form or form. I don’t think this is my place.
Saban made national headlines last week when he walked past a group of athletes from Alabama marching through the University of Tuscaloosa campus in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and racial equality. . The Tide coach has been praised by some for adding his prominent voice to the players’ cause, but also faced social media backlash from some fans who claimed Saban was injecting himself into politics.
Three days after the march, Alabama’s official football Twitter account posted a video showing the building’s efforts to get players to register to vote in the November election:
“As a team we felt it would be really important this year to get everyone to vote,” senior offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood said in the video. “So we think it’s important that everyone have a voice, because this year more than ever, it’s more important to have your voice heard, no matter who you vote for.
Saban echoed the message on Tuesday.
“I think it’s very, very important that every American has a voice and uses their opportunity to vote so that their voice is heard,” he said. “And I would encourage everyone to do that and I definitely would, even though I do it in my absence and I don’t even know when Election Day is sometimes – we have a game that week I get it that. But I think it’s important for everyone to realize the importance of being able to do this, and our players have done a good job.
Saban referred to comments he made in 2016, when he said he was unaware polling day had happened, but later clarified that he had voted absent and that he was too busy to vote in person on election day.
Although Saban said on Tuesday that he never endorsed a candidate, he appeared in a 2018 video commercial for West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin during his re-election campaign.
“I don’t have a better friend or know a better person than Joe Manchin,” said Saban of Manchin, the former governor of the home state of Saban in West Virginia, who is considered one of the most politically moderate Democrats in the Senate. Saban made a rare political donation of $ 2,400 to Manchin’s initial special election campaign in 2010.
Saban appeared to carefully walk around the political implications of his involvement in last week’s march. In his first press conference after the event, Saban said of the movement, “we are not letting this die” and added critics: “I don’t have an opinion on everyone’s opinion. world. “
But Saban also pointed out that he believes his players are simply supporting the “concept” of racial equality and not necessarily organizations with political motives.
“I don’t think they have ever come out to say that they support an organization – good, bad or indifferent,” he said. “They support the concepts of things that can be done in the future. “
“Black Lives Matter” is a large social movement that followed the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his alleged murderer, George Zimmerman, in 2013. A specific organization that promotes the movement, Black Lives Matter Global Network, exists also.
“The video broadcast by our players [in June], which was “All lives don’t matter until black lives matter,” supported the concept, “Saban told SEC Network on Saturday. “Not just any organization, but the concept of ‘All Lives Matter’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’, and I think it was really positive and it had a lot of impact.
“I told the players, I said, ‘You know, if we want to do this, I want it to be positive about the things that we can all do to make changes in the future. Not to be negative, to criticize people for what happened in the past, and that’s what they wanted to do and I think they did a really good job.
Saban isn’t the only coach on the Alabama campus pushing for voter registration ahead of the November election. Men’s basketball coach Nate Oats told AL.com in June that he challenged his team to participate 100% in the election.
Mike Rodak is an Alabama Beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on twitter @mikerodak.