Sports & Politics: 27 Woke Athletes Who've Taken A Stand

Natasha Hatendi Sep, 07, 2016

A number of NFL teams and players have joined Colin Kaepernick in protesting the national anthem after Donald Trump’s recent comments suggesting that players should be fired for kneeling.

These athletes join a number of other sports stars who’ve used their platform to bring awareness to a number of issues. 

From Kaepernick to Venus Williams, here are athletes who’ve mixed sports and politics to create change.

1 of 27 Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery

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.

2 of 27 The Stanley Weston Archive/Getty images

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.

3 of 27 David Sherman/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.

4 of 27 Hulton Archive/Getty images

Jackie Robinson made history as the first Black MLB player and a catalyst for the end of racial segregation in professional baseball.

5 of 27 Central Press/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.

6 of 27 David Sherman/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.

7 of 27 J. Merritt/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.

8 of 27 Fred Lee/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.

9 of 27 New York Times Co/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.

10 of 27 Jason Miller/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.

11 of 27 Focus On Sport/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.

12 of 27 Cameron Spencer/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.

13 of 27 Gabriel Olsen/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.

14 of 27 Elsa/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.

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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.

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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.

17 of 27 Noel Vasquez/Getty images

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.

18 of 27 The Washington Post/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.

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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.

20 of 27 John Dominis

Track and field champs Tommie Smith and John Carlos made a powerful statement heard around the world when they made a Black power salute at the 1968 Summer Olympics.

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Williams fought for equal pay for women in tennis. Prior to her win at Wimbledon in 2005, she challenged organizers to think about why women who've worked so hard do not receive the same pay as women. The tennis star's drive for equal pay received attention from other players that helped her win the fight.

22 of 27 Jesse D. Garrabrant

To protest Arizona's immigration laws in 2010, the Phoenix Suns wore jerseys reading "Los Suns," to support the state's Latino community.

23 of 27 Adam Pantozzi

Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner and Atlanta Dream player Layshia Clarendon teamed up earlier this year to tackle a Texas bill that would put transgender lives in jeopardy. The pair even wrote an op-ed for NBC News.

24 of 27 Brian Bahr

The former NBA player took a stand in 1996, refusing to stand for the national anthem. Abdul-Rauf stated the flag was a symbol of oppression and that standing for the flag conflicted with his beliefs. The NBA suspended him in March 1996, but later worked out a compromise with Abdul-Rauf in which he would stand but be allowed to pray.

25 of 27 Steve Russell

The baseball star protested the Iraq war in 2004 by remaining in the dug out during "God Bless America." Delgado received tons of negative attention after an interview with the Toronto Star, even being booed by Yankees fans during a game. However, Delgado's stance brought closer scrutiny and attention to the war and is now viewed in a more favorable light. 

26 of 27 Courtesy of the University of Wyoming

Fourteen Black football players at the University of Wyoming were kicked off the team, when they sought to protest Brigham Young University's then policy of prohibiting African-Americans from most ecclesiastical positions. The decision was celebrated by conservatives at the time, but damaged the school's ability to recruit Black players. 

27 of 27 Dilip Vishwanat

During a game against the Oakland Raiders, five players for the St. Louis Rams showed support for protestors in Ferguson by walking onto the field with their hands up. The St. Louis Police Officers Association called for the players to be punished, but the players were not fined or disciplined.