ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — More than 100 Broncos players and coaches joined a virtual voter education session on Friday with RISE to Vote and the Colorado Secretary of State's office.
The hour-long session focused on the importance of the right to vote and how members of the Broncos' organization could register for the upcoming election.
"It does not matter the color of your skin," Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold told the Broncos. "This is your right as citizens. … Voter suppression is systemic racism, and we cannot allow that anymore."
Griswold, the youngest secretary of state in the country, spoke to the team about the state's effort to increase voter turnout while reducing the spread of COVID-19. Colorado already leads the nation in voter turnout.
Together with RISE to Vote — a nonpartisan initiative that partners with sports teams to increase civic engagement — the Secretary of State's office walked players and coaches through the registration process.
The Broncos plan to host two more sessions in the coming weeks/months for other members of the organization as part of their Broncos Country Votes initiative.
"Voting is a fundamental process in the democratic system," Broncos Executive Director of Community Development Allie Engelken said. "While Friday's session focused on the players and coaches, it was the first of three organization-wide meetings. All full-time employees will participate in the voter education series throughout the month of August. Voter registration and supporting the players using their platform to affect change is very important to Joe Ellis and the rest of our organization. Because of that, we are looking forward to launching Broncos Country Votes, an online voter registration drive for Coloradans."
Judd Choate, the Colorado state election director, said Friday the Broncos can make a major impact in efforts to help register voters.
"I'm the state election director for the best state that runs elections in the country," Choate said. "I've been doing this for a long time. We have a lot of expertise. We're really good at this. We're known nationally. I have 10,000 Twitter followers. Von Miller has that — plus about three zeroes. He has a megaphone. Phillip Lindsay, Noah Fant — that group of people has an ability to get a message out at a degree and with a sort of power and influence that I simply don't have. That is an extraordinary thing that someone with that kind of reach has.
"I personally am very impressed with the athlete of the 2020s who is willing to expose themselves to potential criticism and fight for what they believe in. I think that speaks incredibly well of the young men and women who are doing that across many platforms and different sports."
Broncos Running Backs Coach Curtis Modkins closed the meeting by sharing with the team why he votes and why he feels passionately about the right to vote.
Modkins described his experience meeting the late Rep. John Lewis when Modkins was a coach at Georgia Tech in the early 2000s.
"I got a chance to spend a little time with him one on one and it really hit me to my core," Modkins said. "He shared a lot of things that you read about, that you see pictures about, he shared those that happened to him. It really enlightened me."
During Friday's meeting, Modkins read a portion of Lewis’ New York Times op-ed, which ran last week on the day of his funeral.
"Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble," Modkins read from Lewis' op-ed. "The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you can have in a democratic society. You must use it because it's not guaranteed. You can lose it."
Modkins shared with members of the organization bits of history about disenfranchisement and the many barriers that exist for large segments of the U.S. population.
"It's a personal decision for me to vote, because I feel like I owe that to the people in my family [that came before me]," Modkins said.
More than a dozen players and coaches reached out afterward to Modkins to express their gratitude for his words.
"That's what this is all about," Griswold said of Modkins' speech. "This fight isn't over."
For more on the Broncos' efforts to increase voter registration and turnout, click here.