NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — This week, we’ve seen professional athletes taking a stand in the name of social justice. Their actions follow a long history of athletes and activism.

Inside the NBA bubble, veteran Miami Heat forward Andre Iguodala is advocating for players as the vice president of the union.

“We say we came down here with the mission to use our platform to speak out while also being able to preserve wealth for the African-American community,” said Iguodala in an interview with CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas.

Iguodala and the rest of the NBA players are walking a path paved by the bravery of previous athletes.

“Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, those figures who could have made, you know, [could have] been very wealthy just being an athlete, but they actually stood for something and they sacrificed the wealth for their families, the wealth for their communities,” said Iguodala.

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Boxers Muhammad Ali was vilified and deemed unpatriotic after refusing to report for the draft during the Vietnam War. Track stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their hands to protest racial injustice in America at their medal ceremony during the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games, only to be suspended. On the tennis court in the ’70s, Billie Jean King demanded pay equity and was a vital voice in the women’s movement.

Each act received criticism only to be celebrated years, and sometimes decades, later.

“What we don’t talk enough about is the WNBA. Those women probably for the past 10 years have been tenacious in their support for social justice,” said William Rhoden, a writer at large for ESPN’s The Undefeated.

He notes that acts of protest are now more of a team sport, putting pressure on the ownership.

“Making sure that, OK guys, the work we’re doing right now, we may not see the fruits of our labor, but one day it will come,” said Iguodala.

Wednesday marked the fourth anniversary of when Colin Kaepernick first took a knee to protest police brutality. The impact of his demonstration is not lost on athletes today who are leveraging their own platforms for a bigger purpose.

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