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Kirby Smart and Georgia play Florida this week.

Kirby Smart, Georgia football players explain why the opportunity to vote is important

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Why Georgia football and the rest of college football are voting and not practicing today

Ahead of arguably the biggest game of Georgia’s season, the Bulldogs will not be practicing on Tuesday. The Florida Gators, who have lost three straight to Georgia and missed practice time in October due to a COVID-19 outbreak, will also not be practicing.

The entire sport will not be practicing on Tuesday due to an NCAA mandated off day to allow student-athletes the opportunity to go vote.

“I think it’s very important for them to give us a chance to do that,” offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer said. “Us being allowed to go have our voice heard is probably one of the most game-changing things I’ve seen in a while. Our age group is one of the most influential age groups across the country. For us as football players to go out and voice our opinions to get to say who we want to be in office I think is really important.”

The day off does cause a disruption for teams, as Tuesday is usually a key day in preparing for the coming Saturday. And for Georgia, not that many players will actually be voting on Tuesday.

But that’s because over 90 percent of the Georgia football team has already voted according to Kirby Smart’s estimate.

“It’s unique now that it was such a point of emphasis on our athletic department and our athletic administration did a great job of getting 100 percent of our student-athletes to vote,” Smart said. “We’ve almost done that, so tomorrow will be more of an opportunity for them to work on other things: academics, to clear their mind, for whatever they want to do. But we’re going to have a speaker for it.

Not all coaches took the approach that Smart did when discussing the off-day, as Florida coach Dan Mullen bemoaned the off-day and also said most of his team had already voted. Mullen’s comments were roundly criticized as he called the decision “kind of disappointing.”

When Georgia’s players were asked about the off-day though, they did not share that same opinion.

“Making sure everybody gets their voice to be heard, I think the idea behind that is really great,” Salyer said. “That hasn’t always been the case in the world moving up to this point. A lot of people haven’t had the chance to have their opinion voiced.

“I think college football players, having the high profiles that we do being able to go out and be seen in polling places and being able to vote I think is really big for this community.”

In recent media sessions, players like Salyer, Tre’ McKitty and Trey Hill were all wearing SEC voter stickers and proudly talked about why it was important to vote.

For many members of Georgia’s team, this was their first chance to vote in a presidential election.

“I felt really good walking out of there like, ‘wow I just voted for the first time,'” Salyer said. “It was pretty cool and I was excited.”

The players made it clear that in addition to using their voices and platforms to encourage change, coach Smart has strongly encouraged voter participation. The Georgia coach has previously said that they don’t push specific policies onto players but do stress to them the importance of voting.

Earlier this summer, the whole team was taken to go register to vote, with the Director of Player Support Bryant Gantt leading the way. Since then players have taken advantage of using Stegeman Coliseum as an early voting site.

 

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What a great feeling as the team walked to the Board of Elections and Voter Registration and registered to vote…Taking Steps!!!

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Glad we were able to vote. The process was a breeze…Go Vote and Go Dawgs!!!

A post shared by Gantt (@bkgantt) on

“We definitely made voting very significant at the beginning of the season because we felt it was very important,” Georgia cornerback Tyson Campbell said. “Most of the team has already voted. So really felt that was important because the things going on right now, it’s important we have the right people in office and in our government to help run our country.”

Salyer drove home the point Campbell was making as the starting left tackle stressed the importance to go out and vote, regardless of which candidates you support.

“Voting hasn’t always been a priority in this country and you can see that in the voting participation in the last election,” Salyer said. “I think it’s really important that they’re pushing that in this election this year and I’m really proud of the country for doing that.”

It is understandable why some coaches may not like having tomorrow off, especially when they such creatures of habit. But as the Georgia players have clearly stated, it’s okay sometimes for something to be as or more important than a football practice. And voting falls into that category.

“It’s not whether I’m for it or against it, that’s not important,” Smart said. “What’s important is getting our kids an opportunity to vote and that’s what most of them have done.”

Jamaree Salyer explains why voting is important to him, Georgia football program

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