Nick Saban co-signs letter supporting voting rights legislation


CW / Lexi Hall

Alabama head coach Nick Saban surveys the field before the SEC championship game on Dec. 4, 2021.

Ashlee Woods | @ashleemwoods, Sports Editor

Nick Saban and four other sports figures co-signed a letter to Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia last week that supported the passage of the Freedom to Vote Act. 

A press release with the letter was shared Monday morning. 

The letter was also signed by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, former NBA player and executive Jerry West, former West Virginia University athletic director Oliver Luck and former NFL player Darryl Talley. 

Everyone that signed the letter has West Virginia ties. 

Manchin and fellow Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are the two moderate Democrats who haven’t supported efforts to change filibuster rules. Changing these rules would ensure that the bill passes in Congress. 

The bill — along with the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — would standardize election laws and restore provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Manchin released a statement on Jan. 13 explaining why he wanted to remain consistent in protecting the filibuster. 

“The ability to debate and do the hard work to find consensus between [the] two parties is more important for our country now than ever before with the Senate evenly divided,” Manchin wrote. “While many try to ignore this history, they do so without fully understanding the long-term institutional and democratic damage this will do to the Senate and our nation.”

Saban is a native of Fairmont, West Virginia, and a longtime friend of Manchin. Manchin is originally from nearby Farmington, West Virginia.

Saban, Tagliabue, West, Luck and Talley acknowledged the need to keep voting in the U.S. accessible for everyone.  

“We come from some of our nation’s most popular sports leagues, conferences and teams,” they wrote. “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.” 

The letter expresses support for measures that give voters several ways to access and cast a legal ballot, including early and absentee voting options. It also takes issue with election laws passed in several states since the 2020 presidential election.

“Motivated by the unanticipated outcomes of recent close elections conducted with integrity, these state laws seek to secure partisan advantage by eliminating reliable practices with proven safeguards and substituting practices ripe for manipulation,” the letter states. 

This is not the first time Saban has engaged in a political issue. 

In August 2020, Saban walked at the front of a march organized by Alabama student-athletes to support the Black Lives Matter movement. He later gave a speech in front of Foster Auditorium, praising the student-athletes’ effort in creating change.

“Sports has always created a platform for social change,” Saban said. “For each of us involved in sports, I think we have a responsibility and obligation to do that in a responsible way and use our platform in a positive way to try to create social change in positive ways.”

A week after the march to Foster Auditorium, Saban said he would never endorse a political candidate nor get involved in politics.

“I don’t think that’s my place,” Saban said. 

While many have praised Saban for co-signing the letter to Manchin, some have criticized his involvement in this issue. 

“Nick Saban should focus on winning National Championships instead of destroying our elections,” South Carolina U.S. Representative Ralph Norman, a Republican, said in a since deleted tweet. 

The U.S. Senate is set to debate on the passing of the two bills on Tuesday.