During a normal November, Capital One Arena would be bustling with fans eager for the puck to drop at a Washington Capitals game. This November, however, Capital One Arena will take on a new purpose: acting as an Early Vote Location and Election Day Super Center in partnership with the D.C. Board of Elections.
The Monumental Sports & Entertainment group joined this voting initiative as a part of their effort to increase civic engagement and provide a safe, easy and accessible voting facility for residents of D.C.. Any eligible voter residing in D.C. was able to cast their precinct-specific vote from Capital One Arena, which had voting stations set up throughout the concourse. D.C. residents then received a custom “I Voted” sticker featuring the logo of one of the three teams which compete at Capital One Arena: the Washington Capitals, the Washington Mystics or the Washington Wizards.
While the DMVote initiative is embraced by all Monumental Sports & Entertainment teams, the Capitals took extra care to promote the initiative through their social media accounts. Leading up to Nov. 3, the Capitals posted DMVote graphics urging fans in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area to make their voice heard, as well as providing them with resources regarding tracking mail-in ballots, voter registration and volunteer opportunities. For example, on Election Day, the Capitals posted photos of players Garnet Hathaway and Nick Jensen donning “I Voted” stickers and posing alongside their puppies to their Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages to encourage their fanbase to vote.
U.S. politics intertwining with sports has always been contentious, but is unavoidable for the Capitals who operate in the political heart of the country. The mix of politics and sports has taken off in the NFL and NBA and is making its way into the NHL. It has taken longer for politics to enter the NHL because only about 25% of the league is American. Although the NHL is a U.S. organization, with so many different countries and nationalities represented, it is hard for players and teams to focus solely on U.S. politics as the NBA and NFL do.
The last time fans saw the Capitals directly involved with politics was in 2018 when they won the Stanley Cup. Then, all but three teammates celebrated at the White House with President Donald Trump. Braden Holtby, Brett Connolly and Devante Smith-Pelly sat out the visit, citing political differences with the president. It was a big deal for these players to skip out on celebrating with President Trump because it marked one of the first times players’ individual political views influenced dominant sports traditions. The tradition of sports teams visiting the White House dates back over 150 years to President Andrew Johnson’s administration. Although the practice became consistent under Reagan, it was not until 1991 the first Stanley Cup Champions visited the White House.
DMVote represents a stepping stone toward bringing politics into the NHL. Whether this development is good or bad, I am not sure. On the one hand, sports are an escape from the tensions surrounding the current political climate. But, on the other hand, it is ignorant for players and executives to act as though the largest problem in the world is whether the Capitals make the playoffs. I’m not here to say politics mixing with sports is good or bad, but we should get used to the intersection because it is here to stay.
The Capitals’ partnership with DMVote is admirable; they are advocating for D.C. residents to exercise their constitutional right to vote, thus effectively targeting those close to home. I think the most important thing is that the Capitals franchise proceeds with supporting political initiatives they feel passionately about while continuing to maintain their primary identity as a sports organization.
Hayley Salvatore is a junior in the College. All Caps appears online every other week.