King and William Wachtel represented the Drum Major Institute during the visit to the Dolphins’ training facility in Davie, Fla. They worked with the RISE organization on a mission to register every player on the roster to vote. Wachtel said about 90 percent of the players are registered so far.
“We’re certainly really honored to be here with this organization, as it takes a very unique step,” King said Thursday. “As you perhaps have heard or are aware, my father and his team, along with John Lewis and others led the campaign to garner the right to vote in 1965.”
“So for the Miami Dolphins to embrace this concept of being the first team to have all of its players registered…Of course the hope is that translates to encouraging more people across our nation to get engaged and to vote because a vote-less people, as dad said, is a powerless people. One of the most important steps that we can take is that short step to the ballot box.”
The Drum Major Institute was founded in 1961 by the fathers of King and Wachtel. The institute “is a transnational organization focused on finding, supporting, funding, and creating programs and alliances that champion human relations and global equality initiatives,” according to its official website.
Harry H. Wachtel was a confidant and legal counsel to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He died in 1997.
“[Dolphins owner] Steven M. Ross has been a dear friend for 30 years,” Wachtel said. “He’s clearly an owner who is more invested in the well-being of the players, not just on the field but off the field. And as part of the civic engagement, he asked us if we would work with the Dolphins in this initiative. As you know, he runs an organization called RISE.”
“He’s got every major league sport involved and hopefully what happened here today will be an inspiration for the entire RISE organization and, if in fact, the teams and their players all register by national registration day, which is September 26th of this year, then we will rise up and all be very proud of the fact that the ballplayers, who really are at the end of the day role models, will do something special. This is, after all, the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson stepping out onto the field of America’s dream. To pay homage to the dream of Dr. King, what could be better for all players to stand up and say ‘We vote; we count.'”
On Wednesday the Dolphins announced that the Ross Initiative in sports for Equality (RISE) will receive a national honor and $100,000 grant from ESPN for leadership in improving race relations and driving social progress.
RISE will also be presented with a Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award on July 11 at the third annual Sports Humanitarian Awards presented by ESPN.
“We are honored that rise is a recipient of the Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award,” Ross said in a release. “I want to thank all of the players, sports executives and league officials who have united to make a positive impact around such an important issue.”
RISE has reached more than 30,000 students, coaches and athletic staff members.
“They were groundbreaking and got ahead of race relation conversations that needed to be had,” Dolphins safety Michael Thomas said in a release. “For RISE to give these athletes a platform to voice their opinion on how they were feeling was awesome. The nation really got behind it and this is something that will continue to grow.”
Ross founded the nonprofit was founded in 2015.