On Sept. 1, 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick turned heads when he kneeled before the start of a preseason game as the national anthem played in the background. As a result, Kaepernick, who had wanted to make a statement in light of the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and Freddie Gray, quickly became the face of sports activism. Despite the backlash he received, he set off an incredibly important conversation about the role that professional athletes have in the fight for racial justice.
Still, Kaepernick was not the first player to engage in activism on such a public stage. Back in 1883, Moses Fleetwood Walker set the tone for decades to come when he became the first African American baseball player on an all-white team. Jesse Owens similarly made his presence known at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by winning four gold medals at an event that Adolf Hitler intended to showcase Aryan “superiority.”
Today, athletes — particularly those in the NBA and WNBA — are increasingly using their statuses as public figures to shed light on racial injustice. And in the most recent episode of Verizon’s #Next20 series, NBA Hall of Famer Ray Allen, Milwaukee Bucks point guard Jrue Holiday and two-time WNBA champion Renee Montgomery explain why it’s so necessary, especially during such a polarized time.
To learn more, watch the clip above as the three discuss their thoughts with Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes.
If you liked this story, check out this #Next20 episode on reimagining small businesses during a global pandemic.
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