This past July saw the launch of the non-profit When We All Vote, which aims to boost voter registration for the November midterm elections and counts Michelle Obama among its spokespeople, along with celebrities like Tom Hanks, singer Janelle Monáe and NBA point guard Chris Paul. With the deadline to register fast approaching — and with today National Voter Registration Day — the group is holding events all over the country this week with speakers urging word-of-mouth tactics to motivate people to head to the polls.
The name Donald Trump was not once uttered at When We All Vote’s Nashville stop on Monday, an evening headed up by Faith Hill and a pair of fellow Music City denizens, football player Delanie Walker and singer-songwriter K.S. Rhoads. (WWAV does not endorse one party over the other, though the former first lady’s involvement — and that of the left-leaning Hill and husband Tim McGraw — has ruffled some feathers regarding that claim.) The number 49 was a recurring theme of the speeches at the event, held at music venue and event space Marathon Music Works and emceed by CMT personality Katie Cook. And not for a good reason: 49th is where Tennessee ranked out of the 50 states in voter turnout in 2016.
“Are you OK with that?” an impassioned Hill asked the crowd of a couple hundred, encouraging voters and would-be voters to step outside themselves and consider who else it affects when they cast their ballot. “This is a nonpartisan issue,” the country star went on. “If you have children, elderly, friends, family that you’re concerned about, please… let’s join together and not be 49th this time. We’re not going to be 49th. We are not and will not.”
Monday’s event was not Delanie Walker’s first foray into the political arena. Last September, the three-time Pro Bowl tight end and current member of the hometown Tennessee Titans doubled down on he and his teammates’ decision to sit out the national anthem in response to inflammatory comments made by Trump on the subject, telling fans who didn’t like the protest to stay home. Walker recently had his 2018-19 season end prematurely — suffering a broken ankle and ligament damage during Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins — and as he rehabilitates, plans to continue making appearances of this nature.
As an NFL veteran of 12 seasons, “obviously I [can] reach people [around] 18 to 30, and they’re the ones we’re trying to push to vote, so if I can do things like this to make a difference, I’m willing,” Walker, 34, told Rolling Stone. The Pomona, California, native has been in the league for parts of three different administrations, and says politics “are talked about more [openly] nowadays” among players than when he came up. “Growing up I never had someone who encouraged us to vote… but at a certain age, I realized that if I wanted my opinion to be heard, my voice to be heard, voting was the key. But the younger generation is very in tune to politics and to voting, and that excites me.”
WWAV’s Week of Action continues through Saturday, September 29th; a full list of its voter registration events nationwide can be found on the organization’s site. Earlier this summer, the group posted a video featuring McGraw, Hill, Obama and others encouraging people to register and vote.