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Brief Photo History of Racial Protests in Sports

This stand wasn’t for me. This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard, and effect change. So I’m in the position where I can do that and I’m going to do that for people that can’t. – Colin Kaepernick

Racial protests within sports have occurred as early as 1968. 49 years later, minorities continue to face racial inequality and injustices due to skin color.

Sports professionals have a powerful platform with many viewers. With their popularity and easy reach to over 200 million Americans, any small gesture or movement can influence and inform. Colin Kaepernick used this to his advantage. On August 28, 2016, Kaepernick explained why he sat during the national anthem 2 days prior to. He sat to protest the oppression of people of color and the ongoing issues with police brutality. Kaepernick was ridiculed by the media and conservative viewers who believed that he disrespected America’s values. 1 year later, more NFL players join in solidarity by kneeling, staying in their locker rooms or linking arms with other teammates. These forms of protest are usually avoided due to fear of losing endorsements and advertisements. The ignorant remarks made by 45 ignited the flame of empathy from the athletes causing a pattern of protests throughout the NFL world.

70% of NFL players are black men. The fear of losing money was placed before any form of empathy for working-class minorities who are more susceptible to police brutality and racial inequities. Due to the timing, Trump’s comments will out-shadow the protests. Instead of focusing on the original message, the protests are now solely associated with the national anthem. An anthem that was written by Francis Scott Key, a slave owner.

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U.S. athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their gloved fists at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968 to express their opposition to racism in the U.S.
AFP/Getty Images
Members of the St. Louis Rams raise their arms in a “hands up, don’t shoot” pose as they walk onto the field before an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders.
L.G. Patterson/AP


Kenny Britt, a member of the Rams, wore this as a Ferguson tribute.



In this image posted to Miami Heat basketball player LeBron James’ Twitter page, Miami Heat players wear team hoodies.
LeBron James via Twitter/AP



Eric Reid #35 and Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sideline, during the anthem, prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 18, 2016. Michael Zagaris—Getty Images



While players in other sports leagues have increased their voices, WNBA players have advocated for social change for at least 15 months. SB Nation



Dolphins players Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas, Arian Foster and Jelani Jenkins took a knee during the national anthem.



Buffalo Bills players kneel during the American national anthem before an NFL game on Sunday.



The Oakland Raiders’ offensive line sits out the US national anthem on Sunday.



Bengals players lock arms during the national anthem before a game against Packers. Courtesy of Enquirer



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