This was very controversial.
In a letter dated January 13 and signed by many prominent sports figures, including University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban, Sen. Joe Manchin was urged to support voting rights legislation.
The letter also featured the signature of another West Virginia native, NBA Hall of Famer, Jerry West and West Virginia graduates and former NFL players Oliver Luck and Darryl Talley, in addition to former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
The voting legislation at the center of the letter came before the Senate would debate on the John R. Lewis Act. The Act seeks to require widespread access to early voting and mail-in ballots and make Election Day a national holiday.
The letter declared that the principles ensuring free and fair elections were “under intentional and unprecedented challenge” before using a sports analogy to describe the effort to pass new legislation. “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.”
The letter exhorted lawmakers to ensure “all Americans have an equal voice in our democracy,” adding that Federal elections should be “conducted with integrity so that the votes of all eligible voters determine the election outcomes.”
Changing voting legislation has been top on Democrats’ agenda, but need 60 votes to pass. Given the 50-50 split, Dems were hoping to change the voting threshold on the Senate rule that required the 60-votes –– the filibuster –– but needed all Democratic Senators’ support to do this.
Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema have both been outspoken in their support of the filibuster, gaining the ire of Democrats.
However, when Manchin was questioned about the letter on Tuesday (January 18), he mentioned Saban added a footnote to the letter that had not been included in the released letter. The footnote, according to Manchin, revealed Saban supported the filibuster.