Ahead of a preseason game on September 1, 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem to call attention to issues of racial inequality and police brutality, a protest which continues to generate intense debate. For decades, American athletes have used their platforms to protest. Here are some of the more notable examples.
1. 1995: The position of the national anthem of Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf
During the 1995-96 NBA season, the Denver Nuggets star refused to run for the national anthem, saying it would be a violation of his Muslim faith. Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf told reporters that the American flag was “a symbol of oppression, of tyranny”. The NBA suspended him for one game before reaching a compromise: Abdul-Rauf stood up and prayed during the anthem. But Abdul-Rauf paid a price for his position: Denver traded him to Sacramento after the season, and despite his prolific goals, he left the NBA at 29.
2. 1961: Bill Russell, Celtics boycott game in Kentucky
When he and four of his black Boston Celtics teammates were denied service at a restaurant in Lexington, Ky., Bill Russell told coach Red Auerbach they would not be playing in an exhibition game in the city. . Two members of the St. Louis Hawks, Boston’s opponent, joined them in the boycott. Auerbach didn’t really stand up for his players, telling The Associated Press: “The black boys got very emotional. They said they would like to go home. We talked for two hours and I couldn’t change my mind.
Russell and his teammates returned to Boston, where the star said, “Black people are fighting for their rights, a fight for survival in a changing world. I’m with these niggers. A day later, Celtics owner Walter A. Brown told the Boston Globe the Celtics would no longer play games in the South, adding, “I’m not so hungry for money that I would run games that might embarrass my players.” At the time, the league had only nine teams.
3. 1965: AFL moves all-star game after players protest
The AFL All-Star Game in New Orleans was a nightmare for the Black All-Stars. Taxis refused to pick up black players, Bourbon Street nightclubs were separated, and a bouncer fired a gun at tackler Ernie Ladd. After that, the players refused to play. New Orleans Mayor Victor Schiro told The Associated Press the protest “would worsen the very condition they are seeking, in time, to eliminate.”
But AFL commissioner Joe Foss didn’t blame the players for stepping down and he quickly moved the game to Houston. The protest accelerated the desegregation of New Orleans as business owners feared financial losses from missing major sporting events.
4. 1967: Muhammad Ali refuses the project
When the US military declared Muhammad Ali eligible for military service, he said he was a conscientious objector to military service because the war was against his Muslim faith. “I have no quarrel with these Viet Cong,” he told reporters. On April 28, 1967, Ali refused induction into the military and was stripped of his heavyweight titles and banned from boxing for three years.
Two months later, Ali was found guilty by an all-white jury and sentenced to five years in prison for his refusal. Public opinion was against him, with the Atlanta Constitution stating, “Clay has a lot of company in the Draft Dodge League.” (At the time, few media called him Muhammad Ali.) Four years later, however, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned Ali’s conviction. Ali, one of the greatest athletes of all time, retired from boxing in 1981.
5. 1968: Tommy Smith, John Carlos at the Summer Olympics
Tommy Smith won a gold medal and John Carlos won bronze in the 200 meters in Mexico City, but history remembers what they did on the medal podium. As the “Star-Spangled Banner” played, each man raised a black-gloved fist, a Black Power salute. All three athletes on the podium wore human rights badges, including Australian silver medalist Peter Norman.
The president of the International Olympic Committee, Avery Brundage, immediately banned Smith and Carlos, who were vilified in the media. Brent Musburger, then a sports reporter in Chicago, called them “two black-skinned assault soldiers.” Neither Smith nor Carlos won another medal at the Olympics. Decades later, Smith said the medal stand protest was in favor of human rights.
6. 1969: Wyoming bans 14 black players for a planned protest
The Wyoming football team were undefeated and placed 12th in the week of their game against Brigham Young University. But when 14 black members of the team visited head coach Lloyd Eaton to discuss an upcoming protest against the Mormon Church’s allegedly racist policies, Eaton shut them down. “Gentlemen, you can save time and breath,” he said, according to one of the black players. “At the moment, you are not on the football team.”
A week later, four Wyoming black track athletes quit in solidarity with the soccer players, and the soccer team was greeted with protests at every road game. In their next 38 games after the mass sacking, the Cowboys won just 12; Eaton was a coach after the 1970 season. In 2019, the university apologized to the “Black 14”.
7. 1970: Billie Jean King demands a better salary
After the start of the open era of tennis in 1968, men made a lot more money than women. Billie Jean King decided to fight, boycotting a 1970 tournament because it only awarded men $ 12,500 and women only $ 1,500. King organized a rival tour, despite the suspension from the US Lawn Tennis Association.
In September 1970, the tournaments increased women’s purses to avoid boycotts from King and his like-minded competitors. In June 1973, King became the first president of the Women’s Tennis Association. A month later, the US Open announced that men and women would receive the same cash prize.
8. 1970: Syracuse players do not participate in the 1970 season
Nine black players boycotted spring training to protest the lack of black assistants or access to the same academic and medical resources as white players. Additionally, Syracuse would not take black players to road games in southern cities. The white teammates threatened to resign if reinstated, with linebacker Bill Coghill telling The Associated Press: “I don’t care if you call me a fanatic. I will not take it. Black players have been absent all season, derailing their footballing careers, despite all nine student-athletes graduating.