5 moments of activism in sports

Feb. 5, 2018

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick ignited a nationwide debate in 2016 when he began taking a knee during the national anthem.

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His current free-agent status calls into question whether athletes can protests without retaliation. Here are five other powerful moments of activism in sports.

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Venus Williams

In 2005, Venus Williams met with Grand Slam officials to demand equal prize money for women tennis champions. Her effort wasn’t successful.

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Venus Williams

She continued speaking out on the issue and penned an op-ed for The Times of London. In 2007, she won Wimbledon, and was paid the same as Roger Federer.

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Los Suns

After Arizona passed a controversial immigration law in 2010, the Phoenix Suns announced the team would wear "Los Suns” jerseys in a May 5 playoff game.

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The frustration with the federal government’s failure to deal with the issue of illegal immigration resulted in passage of a flawed state law.

— Robert Sarver, Suns managing partner, on May 4, 2010

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Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf

In 1996, the Denver Nuggets’ player began refusing to stand for the National Anthem. He said what the flag represented conflicted with his Muslim faith.

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Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf

He was suspended for one game, then agreed to stand for the anthem if he was allowed to bow his head and pray.

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Carlos Delgado

The Toronto Blue Jays player protested the Iraq War in 2004 by refusing to come onto the field when “God Bless America” played at Yankee Stadium in New York.


I don't [stand] because I don't believe it's right, I don't believe in the war.

— Carlos Delgado to the Toronto Star

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"I can't breathe"

In 2014, several NBA stars began wearing “I can’t breathe” T-shirts during pregame warm-ups.

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"I can't breathe"

The shirts referenced Eric Garner, who died after a New York officer placed him in a chokehold. A video captured Garner saying “I can’t breathe.”

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"I can't breathe"

Derrick Rose was the first player to wear the shirt after a grand jury decided not to indict the police officer. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and others followed.

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