The majority of today’s professional and collegiate athletes are millennials.
Millennials tend to be more liberal politically. Tufts University found that more millennials supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton combined.
These political stances have begun to enter the world of sports.
Probably the most well-known sports protest recently was the one led by Colin Kaepernick and then picked up by other NFL players over the course of this season. The protest has gotten even more attention as the president has started to speak out against them as being disrespectful, saying that the players who kneel during the national anthem should be cut from their teams.
Kaepernick has frequently explained that his protest, which he began last season, was not about disrespecting the United States, but was instead to protest what he perceived as racial inequality and injustices.
The protests spiked in week three of this year’s NFL season, after President Trump made comments about several teams remaining in the locker rooms during the national anthem.
The display by owners was significant because nine NFL owners donated money to Trump’s campaign or inaugural committee over the last two years and one, Woody Johnson of the New York Jets, was named the ambassador to Great Britain by Trump.
Several weeks later, stories came out that some owners threatened to discipline players for protesting. The issue was amplified by the comments of Houston Texans owner Bob McNair who compared players to “inmates” in a meeting with other owners.
Kaepernick filed a lawsuit against the NFL claiming he has been blacklisted as a result of his protests.
The NFL recently agreed to donate $89 million over seven years to social justice causes that benefit African-American communities such as criminal justice reform, community relations and education.
Despite the agreement, protests continue, ranging from not coming out of the locker room, to kneeling, to raising a fist in the air.
Marshawn Lynch of the Oakland Raiders stood for the Mexican national anthem during a game in Mexico City, before sitting down on the bench for the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner”.
Generally, these protests have not taken hold in college athletics, however, at Howard University, the cheer team has decided to take a knee during the national anthem.
The team’s first-year coach said at first, he was opposed to the idea but he respected their rights and allowed them to decide on their own.
Sydney Stallworth, junior, spoke for the team to the New York Times, she said, “Injustice is still continuing so we’re going to continue to kneel until we see a change.”
The women of Howard’s cheer team have been protesting for more than a year, dating back to September 2016. Other schools have since joined their protest.
Social action is not limited to the NFL. In 2016, several NBA All-Stars used the ESPY Awards, to make their own social statement. Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Lebron James are some of the most recognizable basketball players in America and they delivered a strong message about the importance of using their position and their recognition to make a positive impact on their communities, but also to send a strong message about racial injustices.
Source: Rabit, YouTube
Kaepernick was recently honored by Sports Illustrated when he was given the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award and was a finalist for TIME’s Person of the Year and continues to stand up and speak out on the issues important to him.