NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The sports world has historically brought racial injustice in the U.S. to the forefront with powerful protests and visible changes.
But despite the career-ending challenges some athletes could face, they’re still joining the fight.
Professional athletes have come a long way since Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem against police brutality in 2016.
Kaepernick wasn’t alone, but his brave stance certainly wasn’t accepted by many, which probably prevented other athletes from taking a stand in fear of losing their job.
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There’s been a drastic change in that mentality over the past year.
The National Football League released a video condemning racism and the systematic oppression of Black people. Two days later, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted that the league should have listened to players’ concerns earlier.
Athletes all over the globe showed their support for the Black Lives Matter movement in one way or another.
“A lot of people were like, ‘Oh, you’ll be silenced.’ We’re Black women, we’re used to people trying to tell us to shut up. We don’t care. We’re here, we’ve got to say what we’ve got to say and we’re going to say how we feel,” said Ariel Atkins, Washington Mystics guard.
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But it became overwhelming for some, including the Mets‘ Dom Smith, following the August police shooting of Jacob Blake.
“I just don’t want to see it happen to my kids, and that’s the thing that I fear,” Smith said.
But the 25-year-old Smith does believe we’re making strides.
“Just a year prior in 2019, those conversations weren’t happening, and athletes weren’t standing up. Obviously you had the Colin Kaepernicks of the world, the LeBron Jameses, but there’s still a ton of athletes who aren’t the elite elite who have a voice, feel certain type of way,” Smith said.
Sports columnist and activist Bill Rhoden says there are still big obstacles moving forward.
“Basically, fear. If you’re anyone besides LeBron James or Kyrie is speaking up, speaking out, and not just speak out but doing stuff, demonstrate. I think the greatest obstacle is will you be punished? Will you be punished by people that own the team who think you should just shut up and dribble?” Rhoden said. “A lot of people have gotten over the fear, saying ‘You know what, I’m making a lot of money. And the money gives me the sort of freedom to, like, talk and stuff.'”
“That’s the thing we have all grappled with in this country, over generations, is sacrifice. What are you willing to sacrifice? How much and when?” Rhoden added.