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Players from the San Francisco 49ers kneel for the National Anthem in support of their teammate Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick’s protests sparked many other NFL players across the league to follow his movement.

Professional athletes use platform in decades long fight against social injustice

October 13, 2020


After the shooting of Jacob Blake in August of 2020 in Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Bucks decided to boycott their game as a form of protest against the constant mistreatment of Black people by the police. 

Following their example, the WNBA and MLB also postponed their games. After the boycott, the teams got a lot of praise from the public. Former President Barack Obama even praised them on Twitter.

There are so many Americans that keep up with sports and some of those people are going to disagree with things like the Black Lives Matter movement. But for people to openly shame and criticize those athletes who speak up about their beliefs just because they disagree is not the proper way to handle things.

For many years, Black people have fought for their place at the table and Black athletes have been speaking up against injustices for years. Bill Russell, a former NBA player, has been acknowledged throughout his career as being an activist for equality. In 1963, he even took part in the March on Washington and throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he was a leader, inspiring many people with his words and actions. He got so much attention that at one point, he was under FBI surveillance for refusing to give autographs in case some of his fans were racist. 

Another popular athlete that was known for speaking up against racism was Muhammed Ali. The famous boxer spoke out against racism frequently and expressed his negative opinions regarding the Vietnam War long before it became a popular subject to speak about. 

And in 1968, Olympian John Carlos and a field teammate named Tommie Smith, both African-American athletes, made history when they took their places on the 200-meter-dash podium with nothing but socks on their feet and each raised a gloved fist. This Black Power salute gained a lot of recognition and eventually both men were expelled from the games by the International Olympic Committee despite Smith winning the gold medal and Carlos winning the bronze.

Some other recent examples of athletes speaking up are Colin Kaepernick when he kneeled during the National Anthem in 2016. Kaepernick got a lot of criticism for kneeling and eventually opted out of his contract with the 49ers. In July of 2020, the NBA season restarted with every player kneeling during the National Anthem and they all wore shirts that said “Black Lives Matter.”

Becoming an athlete doesn’t change the fact that they’re still human. It doesn’t mean that athletes suddenly have to stop having beliefs and morals just to appeal to the small percentage of people who would disagree with them. Also, why would anyone support a team if their beliefs go directly against the players on the team?

Many people who don’t agree with BLM are also telling the athletes that are speaking up that they shouldn’t bring politics into sports. But human rights aren’t politics. The right to walk down the road and not get shot as a black man should not be political. 

Black athletes have had to deal with criticism for so many years if they chose to speak up about the injustices in this country for no logical reason. It’s time to let athletes be human and use their voices. 

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