As Black communities across the nation continue the fight against racial injustice and call for an end to police brutality, we take a look at a host of courageous sports figures who used their platforms to either pave the way or lead the call to action among their fans and their fellow athletes.
49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick unapologetically protested the lack of action being taken by U.S. lawmakers to end police brutality against African-Americans when he refused to stand for the singing of the National Anthem at a pre-season NFL game in 2016.
Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali was as known for his outspoken pride in his African-American heritage as he was for his many achievements as a professional fighter. In the 1960s, Ali was a prominent public fixture in the Civil Rights Movement, who often used his platform to speak out against white supremacy and spread a message of unapologetic pride among Black people in America.
Photo by The Stanley Weston Archive/Getty images
WNBA star Seimone Augustus was among the league's players who took a bold stand in support of ending police brutality against African-Americans by wearing "Black Lives Matter" t-shirts during pre-game warm ups and post-game press conferences.
Photo by David Sherman/Getty images
Jackie Robinson made history as the first Black MLB player and a catalyst for the end of racial segregation in professional baseball.
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty images
Tennis champion Serena Williams has been the epitome of Black pride and greatness since she first began competing professionally over 20 years ago. When she raised a Black Power fist after making history by winning her 22nd Grand Slam at Wimbledon this past June, it was a not-so-subtle reminder of just how woke she is -- for anyone who may have forgotten.
Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Arthur Ashe is an icon in the professional sports arena as the only Black man to win singles titles at Wimbledon, The Australian Open and the U.S. Open.
Photo by Central Press/Getty images
WNBA star Maya Moore was also among the league's players who took a stand against police brutality targeting African-Americans when she joined some of her teammates to wear a "Black Lives Matter" t-shirt during several pre-game warm up sessions.
Photo by David Sherman/Getty images
Track and filed champion John Carlos was one half of the fearless duo that infamously made headlines with a Black power salute at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games.
Photo by J. Merritt/Getty images
LeBron James has never shied away from using his platform to speak out about social issues, and he sparked a domino effect of NBA players following his lead in 2014 when he and the Cavaliers team wore "I Can't Breathe" t-shirts during pre-game warm-ups in memory of Eric Garner. He was also one of four NBA players who delivered a call to action to all athletes, urging them to join the fight against police brutality and gun violence during the 2016 ESPYs.
Photo by Fred Lee/Getty images
Jesse Owens was an extraordinary track and field athlete who is one of the greatest sports figures in world history. In addition to discrediting Hitler's myth of Aryan supremacy in sports by winning four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics, Owens also became the first Black athlete to receive sponsorship from Adidas in 1960.
Photo by New York Times Co/Getty images
Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose made a powerful statement when he wore a t-shirt bearing the words, "I Can't Breathe," in support of justice for 43-year-old Black father of five, Eric Garner. Garner died after being placed in a fatal choke hold by NYPD officers during a 2014 arrest for allegedly selling cigarettes.
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty images
Regarded as one of the greatest NFL running backs of all time, Jim Brown also used his platform to establish the Black Economic Union, which enlisted the help of professional athletes to establish Black-owned and operated enterprises, athletic clubs and youth programs.
Photo by Focus On Sport/Getty images
In addition to making history on multiple levels when she dominated the 2016 Olympic Games with her teammates, track and field star Brianna Rollins added an unforgettable moment to her winnings when she mouthed the words "Black Girls Rock!" while receiving her gold medal.
Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty images
Apart from his professional career as an NBA legend, Kareem Abdul Jabbar is also a notable activist who has used him platform to spread awareness about the true value of African-American culture over the years. In 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially confirmed him as a cultural ambassador for the United States.
Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty images
NY Knicks star Carmelo Anthony has remained active in the Baltimore community that raised him throughout the course of his NBA career, but he made a powerful statement in 2015 when he led a massive Black Lives Matter protest in the city following the police murder of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. Gray died after sustaining severe spinal injuries during an arrest and subsequent police transport. Anthony's involvement with the protest came shortly after he posted a lengthy call to action on his Instagram page, urging all of his fellow pro athletes to contact their local government officials and demand that they take action to end police brutality. He was also one of four NBA players who delivered a call to action to all athletes, urging them to join the fight against police brutality and gun violence during the 2016 ESPYs.
Photo by Elsa/Getty images
The Syracuse 8
The Syracuse 8 were a group of African-American college football players who made history in 1970 when their boycott of the Syracuse University football team to demand equality in the treatment of Black and white athletes ultimately led to an overhaul of best practices associated with college sports programs across the country.
Photo by archives.syr.edu
Track and field champion Tommie Smith was one half of the dynamic duo that made a powerful statement heard around the world when he made a Black power salute at the 1968 Summer Olympics alongside fellow star athlete and activist John Carlos.
Photo by David Livingston/Getty images
St. Louis Rams
The St. Louis Rams shocked the world in the best way possible when multiple players took to the field with both hands raised in the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" position at the start of their game on November 30 as nearly 100 protests continued around the country. The unforgettable gesture was a show of genuine solidarity and support for the Ferguson, Missouri community following the senseless police killing of 18-year-old Mike Brown.
Photo by CBS.com
As one of the NBA's most iconic players, Kobe Bryant -- following the lead of fellow NBA great LeBron James -- led the L.A. Lakers as they all wore "I Can't Breathe" t-shirts to help advocate for justice in the police killing of Staten Island father of five, Eric Garner.
Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty images
Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal was adamant in advocating for the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the Dallas police shootings and even offered a lengthy explanation about why All Lives Matter is invalid after receiving much backlash from disgruntled fans.
Photo by The Washington Post/Getty images
Following the unjust murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February of 2012, the Miami Heat sent a powerful message when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade shared this photo of the entire team wearing hoodies in support of justice for Trayvon's death at the hands of self-appointed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. Dwyane Wade was also one of 4 NBA players who delivered a call to action to all athletes, urging them to join the fight against police brutality and gun violence during the 2016 ESPYs.