‘We have to stick with it’: NFL star urges people to go to polls

It’s Election Day. Or time for one last pitch from New Orleans Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu, urging anyone who is still on the fence about voting to go to the polls.

His “campaign” message?

“We have to stick with it,” Mathieu told USA TODAY Sports. “It may not go our way. Some of the candidates being presented may not be the ones for us. But we have to educate ourselves more and more on the candidates and what we’re voting for. Mostly, we’ve just got to stick with it. We’ve got to continually put our hand in the pile and not just prove to ourselves, but prove to our communities as well that we’re going to stick with this.

“That’s really my message to the young people, because I know a lot of them, a lot of my cousins and friends, they’re discouraged … I just try to remind them that we need to stick with it.”

Mathieu, 30, is not too proud tell you that he didn’t always practice what he now preaches. He said that he registered to vote for the first time around “three, four years ago,” and took it to another level in 2020 in the aftermath of the heinous death of George Floyd caused by police in Minneapolis.

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With the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020, Mathieu teamed with Patrick Mahomes to launch a massive voter drive in Kansas City in addition to securing Arrowhead Stadium as a polling site and raising money for new voting machines.

“I had a personal transition,” Mathieu said. “Growing up, voting was never talked about enough. For me, just being educated and then me and Mahomes going through what we were going through, trying to get more and more people to vote and seeing how the Chiefs let us use their stadium … the more education I got on it, the more I was really down for it.”

Now, having returned to his hometown, Mathieu remains as a strong advocate for voting. He has been one of several NFL players featured in an “NFL Votes” awareness and education campaign that the league says has reached 160 million people.

Mathieu said his efforts are in line with the community service commitment he has developed since entering the NFL. On Election Day, the day after playing in a Monday night contest against the Baltimore Ravens, he’ll host a Thanksgiving-inspired event in New Orleans to give away turkeys and other food for families. The event will be perfect for cross-messaging, with the polls open for a few more hours.

“Hopefully, I can be that fresh blast or reminder to people to get out to the polls and vote,” he said.

Mathieu, known as “The Honey Badger” when he starred at Louisiana State, isn’t stumping for any particular candidates. But he says one particular political figure has stumped for him. Mathieu grew up in the same neighborhood as Cedric Richmond, the former U.S. Congressman who previously served as president of the Congressional Black Caucus.

‘He’s always put that bug in my ear, like, ‘Hey, man, this is what you need to be doing,” Mathieu said.

There’s no question that Mathieu has the leadership skills that would serve him well in politics. His heart for the community seems genuine, too. Would he ever consider running for office?

“You know, it’s funny man,” Mathieu said. “I really see myself as a coach after I finish playing. But a lot of people who really know me, they feel like I’d be a perfect fit for it, representing our community … I wouldn’t say it’s a far-fetched dream or a longshot. I think if LSU doesn’t come calling me, maybe I could one day.”

And that would add another whole layer to his get-out-and-vote campaign.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY