‘No more excuses’: Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse urging Americans in Canada to vote

Having spent most of his professional career outside the United States, Nick Nurse knows all the reasons expats give for not voting. Heck, he’s used a few of them himself.

Too hard to follow election news from afar. Didn’t like the candidates. Missed the deadline to register. Missed the deadline to get a ballot. Missed the deadline to return a ballot. Didn’t think one vote would matter.

No more.

Calling the Nov. 3 election “the most important of our lifetime,” the Toronto Raptors coach has joined with his team in a very public campaign to get Americans living in Canada to vote.

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“There’s no more excuses this time around,” Nurse told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “I gave you all mine. Everybody’s got excuses, but we’ve all got to put excuses aside and make sure we all do our part and vote. That’s it.

“I think it does matter. It matters a lot. I think it’s important,” he added. “I think not voting would weigh heavy on my conscience. Let’s put it that way.”

Nick Nurse is trying his best to get Americans living in Canada to make sure they vote. (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)

While Nurse said his players were already talking about the importance of voting back in March, before the NBA season was halted by the COVID-19 pandemic, it took on greater urgency following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

Chris Paul teams up with Michelle Obama’s When We all Vote. LeBron James’ More Than a Vote signed up 10,000 new poll workers, and is now working with When We All Vote to get people registered and to vote.

And after less than a quarter of eligible players voted in the 2016 election, the NBA Players Association said that just over 96 percent of the league is now registered to vote. The Raptors are one of 20 teams with 100 percent of eligible players registered.

“People are asking for change in a lot of different areas,” Nurse said. “One of the real ways to affect change is through voting and getting through government officials and legislation. If you’re asking for a law to be changed, you need to vote the people you think will change those laws into office.”

“It’s the most effective way for change, which I think is what the players and coaches in the NBA and a lot of people in our country are feeling.”

While Scotiabank Arena couldn't be a voting site, the Raptors had hoped it could serve as a voter registration center. But a spike in COVID cases in and around Toronto forced them to scrap that plan. So they’ve been pushing the importance of voting on their Twitter account, and Nurse, the NBA’s coach of the year for the 2019-20 season, has been amplifying the message personally, hoping to reach as many Americans living in Canada as he can.

And there are plenty.  

According to the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s analysis of overseas voting in the 2016 election, Canada had more Americans of voting age — more than 622,000 — than any other country. Yet less than 7% requested ballots for the last presidential election.

Just 5.3% voted.

“Let’s just say there is some room for improvement,” Nurse said.

While the Raptors won’t know the results of their efforts until after the election, Nurse said the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s website, www.fvap.gov, is getting three times the traffic it normally does in Canada. The website provides information on voting for service members and their families as well as Americans overseas. 

“Hopefully we’re helping influence that,” Nurse said.

Voting overseas is no more complicated than it is in the United States, Nurse said. He requested his ballot online — he's registered to vote in Iowa — and sent it back Monday, using FedEx to ensure there were no delays.

“It’s not required, but I tend to do that with anything (important) I’m mailing to the States,” Nurse said. “I wanted to make sure I get it down there quick.”

This election, there is no room for error. Or excuses. 

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour. 

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