University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban is among several notable sports figures with ties to West Virginia urging Sen. Joe Manchin to support the passage of the Freedom to Vote Act.
A letter signed by Saban, a native of Fairmont, West Virginia and former West Virginia University defensive backs coach (1978-79); NBA Hall of Famer, former West Virginia University standout Jerry West; West Virginia University athletic director Oliver Luck; former NFL All-Pro and West Virginia University standout Darryl Talley and former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, was shared publicly on Monday (January 17) and can be found in its entirety on DocSend.com.
"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 addressed to Manchin stated. "The Freedom to Vote Act, which you sponsored with Committee Chair Senator [Amy] Klobuchar and other colleagues, effectively addressed these goals. Now we also support your leadership in shaping legislation to secure our democracy by protecting election integrity, principled Presidential transitions and our national security during transitions.
"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."
Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema have refused to join other Democratic senators in support of the voting rights bill, leading to a filibuster exception.
The proposed legislation can be kept off the Senate floor indefinitely if it does not get the 60 votes necessary to overcome the filibuster.
Manchin said last week that he wouldn't commit to eliminating or weakening the filibuster as he believed it would "only pour fuel onto the fire of political whiplash and dysfunction that is tearing this nation apart," ESPN reports.
The Freedom to Vote Act, named in honor of late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, aims to expand voter registration and voting access, limit the removal of voters from voter rolls and establish Election Day as a federal holiday, according to Congress.gov.
Saban, a longtime friend of Manchin, has publicly avoided political stances throughout his coaching career, which included telling reporters in 2020, "I've never endorsed a candidate, nor will I ever endorse a candidate or get involved in politics in any way, shape or form. I don't think that's my place," ESPN reports.