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DeMarre Carroll, seen working around Miami Heat’s Justise Winslow last week, won’t say who he voted for in the election. (Jon Blacker/The Canadian Press)
DeMarre Carroll, seen working around Miami Heat’s Justise Winslow last week, won’t say who he voted for in the election. (Jon Blacker/The Canadian Press)

Raptors coach Dwane Casey glad to see players engaged in U.S. election Add to ...

Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey, a proud American who was born in Morganfield, Ky., does not hesitate to proclaim which side of the U.S. political spectrum he falls on.

“I’m a true Democrat, I’ve been a Democrat all my life,” the 59-year-old said on Tuesday after the Raptors had concluded practice in Toronto and were getting ready to depart for Oklahoma City for a game Wednesday night against the Thunder.

Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll, whose birthplace was Birmingham, Ala., is also a keen observer of the U.S. political system.

But the 30-year-old said who he voted for in Tuesday’s U.S. presidential election – Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump – is nobody’s business but his own.

“I got my preference for who I want to be president,” Carroll said. “It’s confidential, what I feel. At the same time, one of them is gonna win. We’ve got to be ready for [either] one.”

The Raptors are the only NBA team that does not fall within the geographical boundaries of the United States. Nine players on the 15-man roster are Americans along with the majority of the coaching staff.

It can be a tricky proposition for an American athlete to participate in the electoral process while living or playing abroad.

Both Casey and Carroll and the other Raptors who voted did so through what is known as an absentee ballot.

To vote from abroad, you have to register to vote with local election officials in your state of legal voting residence.

For Casey, that is Washington State and for Carroll, it is Alabama.

Once a person’s eligibility to vote has been confirmed, a blank ballot is sent either electronically or by mail for that person to fill in and then send back before the voting deadline.

Both Casey and Carroll said they returned their ballots two to three weeks ago, so there was no question early on about which candidate they were supporting.

Casey has been political in nature for most of his adult life and his interest was sparked in the mid-1980s when he became an assistant coach on the staff of Eddie Sutton at the University of Kentucky.

Sutton had got to know Bill Clinton, the former U.S. president, when he was the governor of Arkansas and Sutton was the head basketball coach at the University of Arkansas.

When Sutton took over as coach of the Wildcats and Casey joined the coaching staff, Casey said he also grew to like what Clinton stood for.

In 1996, when Casey was an assistant with the Seattle SuperSonics, the team was in Washington, D.C., to play the Wizards in the newly named Verizon Center, formerly the MCI Center.

Clinton, then the U.S. president, was at the game.

“I’ve got a big picture of Bill Clinton in my home in Seattle, where he came to our locker room before the game when we played the Wizards when we opened up the Verizon Center,” Casey said. “I was very impressed with the way he knew everything about each player in the locker room.

“I mean, he’s a huge basketball fan. So he got my vote right from that spot.”

Naturally, Casey’s support also extends to Hillary Clinton, Bill’s wife.

“I think the experience that Mrs. Clinton brings to the table trumps everything else,” Casey said, fighting a losing battle to keep a straight face.

While younger people are often ambivalent when it comes to the electoral process, Casey said he senses the U.S. presidential election has struck a chord with the Toronto players – at least those with U.S. roots.

“They talk about it and it’s important,” Casey said. “Our guys are very smart guys, they’re into a lot of the social issues that are going on as are a lot of the NBA players, which they should be because they’re citizens.

“They care, they talk about it. I don’t know who’s voting for who but they’re concerned and they’re intellectually informed on what’s going on.”

Does he think that all the players on the Raptors who were eligible to vote did so?

“I’m sure they did,” Casey said. “I didn’t ask them.”

Casey said he hopes they all did, believing that it is important for public figures such as athletes to take a stand in the political process.

“There’s been history, back when Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] and Oscar [Robertson], they stood for a lot of different partisan issues and social issues,” he said. “So the precedent’s been set as far as the NBA, NFL, boxing – sports figures being involved and using their voice, using their platform to make sure they speak out on social issues – which they should.”

Casey said he was not sure what to expect heading into Oklahoma City on U.S. election night, marking the end of what has been a long and often acrimonious presidential campaign.

“It’s been a heck of an election,” he said. “I don’t remember one being like it, all the negativity. I just hope our country comes together and goes in the right direction, pulls as one – whoever wins.

“There’s no guarantee who’s going to win but whoever wins just make sure our country comes together, the U.S. comes together, and be one. That’s the most important thing.”

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