African Americans have been contributing to American sports and taking intricate steps towards trying to mend the fabric of social injustice for many years. According to the novel The 40 Million Dollar Slave by William C. Rhoden, Black athletes’ contributions to sports and integration date as far back as the late 1800s, the 1900s, until today.
The Negro National Baseball League was started by Arthur “Rube” Foster in 1920, a Black man who brought into fruition Black Americans’ pathway to sports team and league ownership.
The author of the novel wrote that Foster was even a more significant figure than the late Jackie Robinson, who became the first Black man to integrate American major league baseball. Robinson later became a baseball Hall of Famer.
The novel mentions boxing legend Jack Johnson, who broke barriers by becoming the first Black boxing World Champion, all while battling oppression and racial hatred.
According to the book, Blacks were very instrumental in horse racing as jockeys, too. From the 1960s well into the 2000s, Blacks dealt with what the author describes as the “Jockey Syndrome.”
The Jockey Syndrome was numerous barriers set up by oppressors to limit jockeys of color.
Blacks have been standing up in the face of racial injustice, oppression and adversity ever since the first days of their habitation in America. They encountered barriers that held them back from competing or representing African Americans in the sport that they desired.
For many years it has been Blacks’ desire to just be considered free and be treated as equals. However, the fight for social justice for the entire Black race continues today.
Blacks are still widely oppressed across the nation and Black athletes have found ways to protest and use their platforms to voice their outrage in simple but unique ways.
According to Wikipedia, in 1968, when social unrest was high, Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos had won the 200-meter race in the Summer Olympics held in Mexico City, the first to ever be held in a Latin community. The two had first and third placements, Smith with the gold and Carlos with the bronze.
A third guy on the podium who protested with them in his own silent way was a German guy name Peter Norman. They all wore badges on their jackets that represented human rights for the Olympics.
However, while on the podium, Smith and Carlos stood barefoot and both raised black-gloved fists in the air while the Star Spangle Banner was played. It was their way of showing their silent gesture of protest against the racial injustices in America.
According to his autobiography, Silent Gesture published 30 years after the fact, Smith said that the gesture was not a “Black Power” salute. However, the demonstration is regarded as one of the most overtly political statements in the history of modern Olympics.
That sentiment of the gesture still stands true today to most Black sports enthusiasts who know their history. One other person who made a significant stance by kneeling for the cause to fight social and racial injustice in America is former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers. His teammate, Eric Reid, and many others followed his lead and joined him in the silent protest.
There has been a high percentage of African Americans being mistreated and even killed by law enforcement during the early 2000s. News agencies broadcasted the tragedies perpetually.
Kaepernick decided in 2016 to use his platform to protest in a silent and peaceful way to show the world that he was not in agreement with the way things were going for African Americans around the country. He said in an interview that his reason for kneeling was “to protest racial inequalitiy and the oppression of Black people in America