The 2017 football season has already started and promising quarterback Colin Kaepernick still remains a free agent, unsigned by any NFL team. Due to his political activism, the former 49er’s backup who stepped into the head QB position and took the San Francisco team to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1994 has been snubbed by the league.
Though his blacklisting has opened up conversations in black communities about boycotting the NFL, Kaepernick is by far not the first athlete to be resolute in his convictions. From Olympic runners John Carlos and Tommie Smith raising their fists while the national anthem played to Muhammad Ali refusing to enlist in the Vietnam War, these athletes have proven that they’re more than just ball players— they’re role models who aren’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in.
July 31 is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, which represents the number of days into 2017 a black woman must work to earn the same pay a white man made in 2016 — that’s nearly 8 extra months! Black women are the cornerstone of our communities, they are phenomenal, and they deserve equal pay.
Tennis champion Serena Williams has always represented herself as unapologetically black and proud. Besides raising the Black Power fist after making history by winning her 22nd Grand Slam at Wimbledon in 2016, she has been a vocal advocate for positive body image, closing the pay gap, being involved in social activism, and shining a light on the racism and sexism women of color face in every aspect of society.
2. Lebron James
LeBron James joins Kyrie Irving in wearing “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt before game in Brooklyn. pic.twitter.com/lLU6TRvSLB
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 9, 2014
LeBron James brought the issue of policy brutality to the NBA when he and his Cavaliers represented the late Eric Garner by wearing t-shirts labeled “I Can’t Breathe” during pre-game warm-ups. During the 2016 ESPYs, he also delivered a speech alongside other big names in sports urging all athletes to use their public platforms to advocate against police brutality and gun violence.
— eztempo (@eztempo) December 1, 2014
The murder of Mike Brown set the city of Ferguson, Missouri ablaze with tension and anger which sparked massive protests and the beginning of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. To show solidarity with the movement, five St. Louis Rams— Jared Cook, Kenny Britt, Chris Givens, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin— walked onto the field with their arms raised in a “hands up” gesture to acknowledge the events rocking the small town.
Like Lebron James, WNBA star Seimone Augustus also donned a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt during warm ups and post-game press conferences to show support for ending police brutality against African-Americans. She is also a vocal advocate for LGBT rights and marriage equality.
5. Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose showing support to Eric Gardner, whose last words were ‘I can’t breathe’ before being murdered by NYPD pic.twitter.com/oNq3hwCENL
— N-Sain (@Jatboyz1) September 26, 2016
Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose, who also wore a t-shirt bearing the words “I Can’t Breathe,” in support of justice for Eric Garner, has made it his priority to speak out about police violence. He’s also a philanthropist, supporting organizations such as After School Matters, a group dedicated to developing cultural activities for Chicago teenagers.
— Todd Johnson (@rantoddj) August 19, 2016
When athlete Brianna Rollins won gold for the 100M hurdles in the 2016 Olympics, she proudly stood on the podium and exclaimed, “Black Girls Rock,” as she was presented with her medal and became an example to black girls everywhere that they could go for the gold as well.
Kareem Abdul Jabbar has spent his career in the NBA and beyond using his celebrity to spread awareness about the importance of celebrating and preserving African-American culture. His activism earned him the title of a cultural ambassador for the United States in 2012.
— Nichelle Stephens (@niche) July 23, 2016
Dedicated to activism in his home of Baltimore, NY Knicks star Carmelo Anthony made a powerful statement in 2015 when he led a massive Black Lives Matter protest through the city after police murdered Freddie Gray. Anthony also uses social media to urge his fellow athletes to demand the end of police brutality.
9. Bradley Beal
‘Yes, Black Lives Matter!’: Wizards’ Bradley Beal wades into debate over police killings: Wizards guard becomes the… https://t.co/eEJ9EOZ26S
— Fairfax County News (@fairfaxctynews) July 8, 2016
In the wake of the Dallas police shootings, Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards reached out to fans advocating for Black Lives Matter and explained how saying “All Lives Matter” undermines the movement instead of being an inclusive phrase.
— Anna Clark (@annaleighclark) December 9, 2014
When 17 year-old Trayvon Martin was murdered by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, the accusation was made that, had Martin not been wearing a hoodie while walking through his neighborhood, he wouldn’t have been mistaken for a criminal. To protest the blame put on Martin for his own murder, the 2012 Miami Heat sent a powerful message by sharing a photo of the entire team wearing hoodies as a reminder that any young black man could have been the victim.