Omachi family detained by authorities
George Omachi and his family are relocated to Jerome War Relocation Center, in Denson, Arkansas. After the Omachis arrived at the Jerome camp, George took part in camp baseball, becoming a player for the Denson All-Stars. “Without baseball, camp life would have been miserable. … It was humiliating, demeaning, being incarcerated in our own country.” He continued to play and coach baseball for several teams at several levels. In 1968, he began scouting in the MLB.
University of Michigan’s first African American student
Samuel Codes Watson was the first African American student admitted to the University of Michigan. Born in South Carolina in 1832, Watson was mixed race and passed for white while attending Michigan. In 1857, he became one of the first African Americans to receive an M.D. from Cleveland Medical College. He later became Detroit’s first elected African American city official.
University of Michigan’s first female African American student
Mary Henrietta Graham was the first African American woman admitted to the University of Michigan.
Moses “Fleetwood” Walker becomes first African American baseball player at the University of Michigan
Walker became a businessman, inventor, newspaper editor, and author after leaving Michigan in 1883 to join a professional baseball team in Toledo before graduating. He became the first African American major leaguer when that Toledo team joined the American Association.
George Jewett becomes first African American football player in the Big Ten
Jewett was an American athlete who became the first African American football player at both the University of Michigan and Northwestern University, and in the Big Ten Conference. At Michigan, he was the leading rusher, scorer and kicker. Jewett was regarded as “one of the greatest stars” in Michigan football in the pre-Fielding Yost era. In addition to playing fullback and halfback, Jewett was also the team’s placekicker and has been called “the Afro-American phenomenon of the University of Michigan.”
The Asiatic Exclusion League is formed
The Asiatic Exclusion League, an organization that aimed to prevent immigration of people from Asia, was formed in 1905.
Jack Johnson becomes the first African-American heavyweight boxing champion of the world
Johnson was reviled for his defiance of Jim Crow laws. After winning the heavyweight title, the press began calling for the “Great White Hope” a white fighter who could defeat Johnson and return the heavyweight title to a white man. In 1912, Johnson defeated Jim Jeffries who was hailed as the white hope some had been waiting for and he held the heavyweight title from 1908 to 1915.
Fritz Pollard breaks the color barrier in professional football.
Fritz Pollard begins his professional football career by joining the Akron Pros . Two years later in 1921 he became the first African American coach in NFL history after being named co- coach of the team. In 1923 Pollard became the first African-American quarterback NFL History as a member of the Hammond Pros and was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
Women granted the right to vote
American women were granted the right to vote through the ratification of 19th Amendment in the U.S. Constitution.
Takao Ozawa v. United States
In 1915, Ozawa filed for United States citizenship under the Naturalization Act of 1906, which allowed only “free white persons” and “persons of African nativity or persons of African descent” to naturalize. In 1922, the United States Supreme Court found Ozawa, a Japanese-American who was born in Japan but had lived in the United States for 20 years, ineligible for naturalization. This decision strengthened and reaffirmed the racist policies of U.S. immigration. With successfful judicial backing, policymakers passed more anti-Asian laws, a trend that continued until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
First African American to win an individual gold medal in the Olympics
In 1924, William DeHart Hubbard became the first African American to win an individual Olympic gold medal. During his senior year at Michigan (1925) Hubbard set the world record in the long jump. While the football coach, Fielding Yost, had barred African American players from football since 1901, in 1921, then Athletic Director Yost allowed one African American to join the track team. Hubbard was the only African American track team member during his four years at U-M.
Walter Achiu becomes first Asian to play NFL Football
Little is known about Achiu, who was a 150-pound running back-drop kicker for the Dayton Triangles in the 1927 and 1928 seasons. He went to the University of Dayton and eventually was inducted into the school’s football hall of fame in 1974.
Gerald Ford protests playing in segregated game
Before presidency was on his mind, a young Ford playing football at Michigan threatened to quit the team and refused to play in a game against Georgia Tech, because the Yellow Jackets demanded an African American athlete, Willis Ward, not be permitted to make the trip. Ford only ended up playing after Ward asked him to.
Jesse Owens wins four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.
Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the long jump, 100 and 200-meter dashes and the 400-meter relay at the 1936 Olympics In Nazi occupied Berlin. Owens’ performance shattered Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy and Hitler famously refused to congratulate him for his wins. During the Games, Owens and German athlete Luz Long forged a friendship and proved that competitors can also be allies. After Owens defeated Long in the long jump, the two took a celebratory victory lap together in a symbolic gesture of sportsmanship and friendship and classic example of the unifying nature of sport.
President Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066 into effect
Encouraged by officials at all levels in the hysteria of World War II, President Roosevelt authorized the internment of tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry and resident aliens from Japan.
First Samoan athlete plays in the NFL
A member of the 1945 Washington Redkins, Offensive Lineman Al Lolotai was the first Samoan to play in the NFL.
Jackie Robinson becomes the first African-American player in Major League Baseball
“I am not concerned with your liking or disliking me. All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.” ~Jackie Robinson
Wataru “Wat” Misaka becomes first non-white and first player of Asian descent to play professional basketball
Selected by the Knicks in the 1947 Basketball Association of America Draft, Misaka became both the first non-white player and first player of Asian descent to play in this precursor league that would become the National Basketball Association.
We are Penn State
In 1948, Penn State football played well enough to be selected to play in the Cotton Bowl against Southern Methodist University. During this time, the Cotton Bowl was a segregated game and Penn State had Wally Triplett, the first African American to earn a varsity letter at Penn State. When both schools scheduled meetings to make the decision to remove African American players from the team to play in the bowl game, team captain Steve Suhey shared his opposition of the meetings with the statement “We are Penn State. There will be no meetings.” Triplett was able to play and ended up scoring the game-tying touchdown.
Larry Kwong breaks hockey color barrier
Kwong is called up from the New York Rangers farm team and becomes the first person of color to play in the NHL. When he was hired as player-coach of Switzerland’s HC Ambrì-Piotta later in his life, he became the first person of Chinese descent to coach a professional hockey team.
Satchel Paige becomes first Negro League pitcher in Major League Baseball.
On his 42nd birthday, following an amazing career in the Negro Leagues, Satchel Paige made Major League Baseball (MLB) history becoming both the first Negro League pitcher in the American League and the oldest player to debut in the Major Leagues. Paige is one of baseball’s most prolific pitchers; having found success in both the Negro Leagues and MLB, he was also the first African-American pitcher inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Victoria Manalo Draves becomes first Asian American Olympic Champion
Manalo Draves grew up in San Francisco, the daughter of a Filpino father and an English mother. Interracial marriages were frowned upon in those days, and an early coach made Manalo Draves use her mother’s maiden name in competitions. She also faced a regular indignity when using a public pool — the water would be drained the day after she used it. On August 3, 1948, Manalo Draves became the first Asian American Olympic Champion, placing first in the women’s three-meter springboard at the 1948 London Summer Olympics. After the Olympics, Manolo Draves and her husband opened their own diving school. She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1969.
First Asian American Man wins Olympic Gold Medal
Sammy Lee becomes the first Asian American man to earn an Olympic Gold Medal, winning in platform diving during the 1948 Summer Olympics in London.
University of Michigan’s first non-white Senior Class President
Orval Wardell Johnson was the first non-white student to be elected as Senior Class President of the College of Literature, Science, and Art. His opponent was Pete R. Elliott, a popular white football player. The final voting margin was 2 to 1. While at U-M, Johnson enrolled in Latin-American studies because he believed that “colored college students should prepare themselves to invade new fields.”
Civil Rights Movement
The civil rights movement was a struggle for social justice that took place mainly during the 1950s and 1960s and sought equal rights under the law for African-Americans in the United States. The movement achieved its largest legislative gains in the mid-1960s, after years of community organizing and direct actions. In addition to civil rights leaders, many athletes who were also impacted personally brought attention to this movement and supported its mission.
Brown v. Board of Education Decision : The Supreme Court Decision Dismisses “Separate but Equal” in Public Schools
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was a landmark Supreme Court case in which the justices ruled unanimously that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional. The decision helped establish the precedent that “separate-but-equal” education and other services were not, in fact, equal at all.
Rosa Parks arrested
On the evening of December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in Montgomery, AL. She was arrested for disobeying an Alabama law requiring black passengers to give their seats to white passengers when the bus was full. This incident contributed to Montgomery Bus Boycott, a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery bus system led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that resulted in a 1956 Supreme Court decision banning segregation on public transportation.
Charlie Sifford plays in his first PGA Tour
Charlie Sifford was the first African American to compete in PGA-sanctioned events following the removal of the PGA’s “Caucasian-only” membership clause in 1961. Sifford went on to win PGA Tour events in 1967 and 1969 as well as the 1975 PGA Seniors’ Championship and was the first African American to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He also was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014.
Althea Gibson wins Wimbledon
Althea Gibson was the first African-American woman to win both the U.S. Nationals and Wimbledon titles in 1957 and she defended both titles in 1958. Throughout her career, Gibson won a combined 11 Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971. In 1963, the same year as the March on Washington, Gibson became the first black golfer in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and played 171 events between 1963 and 1977. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971.
Willie O’Ree Breaks the color barrier in the NHL
In playing for the Boston Bruins, Willie O’Ree became the first African-American to play in the NHL.
Wilma Rudolph makes history at the 1960 Olympic Games
After making history as the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympics, Wilma Rudolph refused to attend any segregated celebratory events, making her homecoming parade the first integrated event in her hometown of Clarksville, TN. In 1953, Rudolph joined other Clarksville citizens in an attempt to integrate a local Shoney’s restaurant. Despite being a hometown and national hero, she was denied entry because she was black.
Students from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) launched the Freedom Rides to challenge segregation on interstate buses and bus terminals. Traveling on buses from Washington, D.C. to Jackson, Mississippi, the riders met violent opposition in the Deep South.
Bill Russell hosts first integrated basketball camp in Mississippi
Following the assassination of Medgar Evers, NBA star Bill Russell traveled to Mississippi on the invitation of Evers’ brother, Charles to host an integrated basketball camp in segregated Mississippi.
NAACP Leader Medgar Evers is assassinated
Medgar Evers was the first state field secretary of the NAACP in Mississippi and a prominent civil rights activist. Through his work he fought for the enforcement of the Brown v. Board of Education, was instrumental in gathering evidence and witness for the investigation of the murder of Emmett Till and, led voter registration efforts. He was assassinated in the driveway of his on home and the outrage following his death increased support for legislation that would become the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
On August 28, 1963, more than 200,000 demonstrators took part in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in the nation’s capital. The march was successful in pressuring the administration of United States President John F. Kennedy to initiate a strong federal civil rights bill in Congress. During the event, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his memorable “I Have a Dream” speech. Athletes such as Bill Russell and Jackie Robinson also participated in the march.
Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington
The “I Have a Dream” remains one of the most famous speeches in history. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used universal themes to depict the struggles of African Americans, before closing with an improvised riff on his dreams of equality. The eloquent speech has endured as one of the signature moments of the civil rights movement.
Cassius Clay wins first heavyweight title
Cassius Clay won his first heavyweight title after defeating Sonny Liston. After the fight Clay announced that he had converted and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. Ali would later become the first fighter to win the world heavyweight championship on three separate occasions; successfully defending his title 19 times and cementing his place in history as “The Greatest.”
Freedom Summer – Volunteers campaign to register as many African American voters in Mississippi as possible and are met with violence.
Freedom Summer was a 1964 voter registration project in Mississippi, part of a larger effort by civil rights groups such as the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to expand black voting in the South. The national attention garnered from the violence volunteers encountered is seen as a catalyst in the Civil Rights Movement.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was comprehensive legislation that outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, required equal access to public places and employment, and enforced desegregation of schools and the right to vote. It was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Billy Mills becomes the first and only Native American man to win gold in the 10,000m race in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics
Native American Billy Mills, a member of the Sioux tribe, scored a huge upset, winning gold in the 10,000m race at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. To this day, no other American has won the gold in this race.
AFL All Star Game is moved from New Orleans to Houston.
After African American AFL players were confronted with discriminatory treatment on their arrival to New Orleans for the AFL All Star game, players refuses to play the game in city and it was ultimately moved to Houston, Texas.
More than 500 non-violent civil rights marchers are attacked by law enforcement officers while attempting to march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to demand the need for African American voting rights.
President Lyndon Johnson signs the Hart-Celler Immigration Act
The Hart-Celler Act ended an immigration-admissions policy based on race and ethnicty. When signging the act, President Johnson said, “This bill that we will sign today is not a revolutionary bill. It does not affect the lives of millions. It will not reshape the structure of our daily lives. … Yet it is still one of the most important acts of this Congress and of this administration. For it does repair a very deep and painful flaw in the fabric of American justice. It corrects a cruel and enduring wrong in the conduct of the American nation.”
Sociologist Harry Edwards creates the Olympic Project for Human Rights to protest against racial segregation in the United States and worldwide
In October 1967, San Jose State University sociologist Harry Edwards founded the Olympic Project for Human Rights to protest racism and racial segregation in the U.S. and beyond. Edwards focused on recruiting athletes participating in the 1968 Olympics to engage in activism there, such as Tommie Smith and John Carlos.
Kathrine Switzer runs the Boston Marathon
In 1967, Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as a numbered entrant. During her run, race official Jock Semple attempted to physically pull her from the event, but she was protected by her boyfriend and fellow runner, Thomas Miller, allowing her to finish the race. Women were not officially permitted to run the Boston Marathon until 1972. Switzer would later say: “I knew if I quit, nobody would ever believe that women had the capability to run 26-plus miles. If I quit, everybody would say it was a publicity stunt. If I quit, it would set women’s sports back, way back, instead of forward. If I quit, I’d never run Boston. If I quit, Jock Semple and all those like him would win.”
The Cleveland Summit
On April 28, 1967, boxing champion Muhammad Ali refused to be inducted into the U.S. Army. Ali, a Muslim, cited religious reasons for his decision to forgo military service. On June 4, 1967 a collection of some of the top black athletes in the country including Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Lew Alcindor met with Ali to discuss his decision — and ultimately held a news conference in his support.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar boycotts the 1968 Summer Olympics over unequal treatment of African-Americans
Kareem Abdul-Jabar boycotted the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics as a way of protesting the inequalities faced by African-Americans.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King is assassinated
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s less than thirteen years of nonviolent leadership ended abruptly and tragically on April 4th, 1968, when he was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. King’s body was returned to his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, where his funeral ceremony was attended by high-level leaders of all races and political stripe.
Roberto Clemente halts opening day
The Pittsburgh Pirates were scheduled to play the Houston Astros on April 8, 1968, four days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King and just one day before his burial. Out of respect, Roberto Clemente refused to play and his teammates also joined in their support to postpone opening day. While initially leaving the decision to each club, MLB Commissioner William Eckert followed suit and postponed all games until April 10th, the day after Dr. King’s burial.
Arthur Ashe Wins the US Open
Arthur Ashe becomes the first African American to win the U.S Open men’s singles champion. In 1975 he would also become the first African American male to win Wimbledon.
Marlin Briscoe becomes the first African-American Quarterback in modern-era football
Marlin Briscoe becomes the first African-American Quarterback in modern-era football.
The Detroit Tigers win the World Series a year after the Detroit Uprising
The city of Detroit celebrates the Tigers winning the world series a year after the 12th Street Uprising. On the night the uprising began Detroit Tiger Willie Horton took to the streets in his Tigers uniform to encourage peace.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos take a stand for human rights at the 1968 Olympics
American track and field athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fist during the medal ceremony for the 200-meter dash at the Mexico City Olympics. Their protest, Smith says, “… was a cry for freedom and for human rights. We had to be seen because we couldn’t be heard.”
Black 14 at the University of Wyoming
In 1969 African American players on the University of Wyoming football team decided to wear black armbands as a sign of protest during a game against Brigham Young University. A year previously, BYU players had taunted them with racist epithets. The players also wanted to protest the Mormon Church’s refusal to allow black men in the priesthood. All 14 players were dismissed from the team.
University of Michigan’s Lesbian-Gay Male Programs Office Founded
Jim Toy, the son of a Chinese father and Scottish-Irish mother, achieved distinction as a longtime advocate for LGBTQ persons. In 1971, he co-founded the University’s Lesbian-Gay Male Programs Office, now known as the Spectrum Center. This achievement was monumental in that it was officially the first staff office for LGTBQ students in a United States institution of higher learning.
Asian Americans for Equality peacefully protest
Moved to action by a developer who refused to hire Asian workers for the massive Confucius Plaza construction project, local activists raised their voices, staged months of protests and finally prevailed. Reflecting on the dramatic events of 40 years ago, AAFE Executive Director Chris Kui says protest among New York Asians wasn’t just rare, it was unheard of at that time. “I remember the Asian community was afraid to speak up about issues they faced … lack of access to equal employment or services.” DeMatteis Corp. eventually relented, agreeing to hire 27 minority workers, Asians among them. It was a major victory for the community and immediately established Asian Americans for Equal Employment as an organization that people could rely on when they had nowhere else to turn.
Frank Robinson Becomes first African-American manager in MLB
Frank Robinson debuts as first African-American manager in major leagues for the Cleveland Indians.
Asian Americans for Equality protest treatment of Peter Yew
A rally against police brutality at City Hall brought out 20,000 protesters and forced the closure of most Chinatown businesses. After weeks of public pressure, all charges were dropped against Yew on July 2. Chris Kui, executive director of Asian Americans for Equality, also remembers it as a turning point: “There was a lot of discussion within the community. Some people said ‘Let’s not make trouble … it could hurt our future.’ Others even said ‘This isn’t really our country.’ But a whole new generation had a different view and said ‘This is our country. We have rights. Let’s fight for those rights.’”
First Polynesian in the College Football Hall of Fame
“Squirmin” Herman Wedemeyer, a Hawaiian, is inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1979.
Tom Flores becomes the first Hispanic-American to win the Super Bowl
The Oakland Raiders’ Tom Flores becomes the first minority and Hispanic-American head coach to win a Super Bowl Championship as the Raiders defeated the Philadelphia Eagles at Super Bowl XV.
Nine Big Ten universities affiliate women’s athletic programs in the Conference
Nine Big Ten universities vote to affiliate their women’s athletic programs with the conference. In October of 1981, the initiative went conference wide when a 10th school began affiliating their women’s athletic programs with the conference. Earlier in the year, on May 4 , the Council of Ten endorsed the Task Force report that enables universities to affiliate their women’s intercollegiate programs with the conference if they so desire. The Council of Ten was formed on March 5, 1975, consisting of three women administrators in the athletic department, two men athletic directors and a faculty representative, and was formed to study women’s varsity intercollegiate athletics.
Wisconsin Women’s Cross Country brings home first women’s Big Ten Conference national title
The Wisconsin women’s cross country team completed the 1984 season with their first NCAA title, bringing home the first NCAA titel in a women’s sport for the Big Ten Conference.
Tiffany Chin becomes the first Asian American U.S. figure skating champion
Chin became the first Asian American U.S. figure skating champion when she won the 1985 U.S. Figure Skating Championship. It was also the first Singles title for anyone of non-European descent. In 1992, Kristi Yamaguchi became a U.S. champion and Olympic gold medalist. She named Tiffany as a major role model. “I think it was so key for me to have an Asian American role model and influence to pursue skating,” Yamaguchi said in February 2018.
Doug Williams makes Super Bowl history as a starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXII.
Led by Doug Williams, the Washington Redskins routed the Denver Broncos 42-10 to become Super Bowl XXII. With this, Doug Williams became the first African American to start at quarterback in the Super Bowl and also the first African American quarterback to win a Super Bowl.
Oakland Raiders Name First African-American Head Coach in Modern NFL History
Art Shell becomes head coach of the Oakland Raiders; the first African-American head coach in the NFL since Fritz Pollard.
The Big Ten Conference is the first to establish voluntary gender equity goals in athletics
The Council of Presidents/Chancellors of the Big Ten Conference announced its unanimous commitment to achieve a level of athletics participation that is 60 percent men and 40 percent women by 1997. Big Ten universities submitted strategies to achieve the 60-40 commitment and annual review procedures were established.
The Big Ten Conference was the first conference to voluntarily adopt participation goals for female student-athletes. The objective was Phase I of the Conference’s Gender Equity Action Plan (GEAP) for conference members to commit to a 60%/40% male-female participation ratio over a five-year period (1992-1997).
University of Michigan hires first African American athletic director
Tom Goss became the first African American athletic director of the University of Michigan. During his short tenure, Goss led Michigan to national titles in football, ice hockey and men’s gymnastics.
Michigan Athletics wins first women’s national title
The Michigan field hockey team wins its first NCAA team championship in a women’s sport.
Mary Sue Coleman becomes Michigan’s first female president
Coleman became U-M’s first female president after serving seven years as president of the University of Iowa. She led U-M during the worst economic downturn since the Depression with new faculty hires, greater interdisciplinary teaching and research, a vibrant entrepreneurial culture, major building projects, and the $3.2 billion Michigan Difference campaign. A strong advocate of diversity, she launched academic partnerships on three continents. She retired after 12 years as president in 2014.
Bob Johnson Buys NBA Expansion Team in Charlotte
The National Basketball Association awarded its expansion franchise in Charlotte to Robert L. Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, making him the first African-American to become the principal owner of a major league sports team.
The NFL’s Rooney Rule was established requiring teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operations jobs.
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and the NFL work with developers to reopen the New Orleans Superdome in record time–a year after Hurricane Katrina
Defeating the Atlanta Falcons in their first home game since Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Saints reached across racial, and socioeconomic lines to bring together a City that was ravaged by the deadliest hurricane the U.S. had ever seen.
Indianapolis Colts’ head coach becomes first African-American to win Super Bowl
Indianapolis Colts’ Tony Dungy, becomes the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl Championship as the Colts defeat the Chicago Bears.
Jeremy Lin plays first NBA game
Jeremy Lin becomes the first american of chinese or taiwanese descent to play in the NBA. Lin’s time in the NBA was dubbed ‘Linsanity’ as he quickly rose from unknown player to top of his game.
First Chinese American drafted into NFL
Ed Wang is drafted by the Buffalo Bills, becoming the first Chinese American to be drafted into the NFL.
The Phoenix Suns wear Los Suns jersey as an act of solidarity with member of the Hispanic Community in Arizona following the passage of a state law allowing police officers to question individuals who appear to be undocumented.
The most decorated figure skater of all time
Michelle Kwan, the most decorated figure skater of all time, is inducted into U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame. She retired as a two-time Olympic medalist, five-time World champion and nine-time U.S. champion.
Black Lives Matter
The Black Lives Matter Movement began with three women in their late 20s and early 30s to protest violence and systemic racism against black people. The movement exploded into national view in 2014 after the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. Among many other things, this movement has helped empower communities into fully becoming civic activists – electing candidates they believe in and protesting unjust policies.
First Polynesian wins Heisman Trophy
Quarterback Marcus Mariota, a Samoan, becomes the first Polynesian to with the Heisman Trophy in 2014.
Michigan State creates Diversity & Leadership Committee
Michigan State Athletics forms the Diversity & Leadership Committee, committed to informing student-athletes on social justices and equal opportunities.
Missouri football players boycott football-activities until school president resigns
Following several racially charged incidents at the University of Missouri, and the campus wide student protests criticizing university president Tim Wolfe’s handling of the matter, the football team pledged to boycott all football-related activities until Wolfe resigned or was fired. The school’s AD and its longtime coach Gary Pinkel stood with the boycotting players, matter-of-factly stating “The Mizzou Family stands as one. We are united. We are behind our players.” Days later, Wolfe stepped down.
St. Louis Rams players use their platform to show solidarity in support of unarmed teen killed by a Ferguson, MO police officer.
Following the death of 18-year old Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson, MO police officer, St. Louis Rams players–Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens, and Kenny Britt come out of the tunnel for team intros with their hands raised in reportedly the same fashion as Brown just before he was killed. This pose was a trademark pose for protesters nationwide and dubbed “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”
Four NBA Stars use moments of ESPYS Awards as a call to promote social change
Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James took the stage together at the 2016 ESPY Awards in Los Angeles and urged their fellow athletes to be active socially.
Ibtihaj Muhammad wins Bronze Medal at 2016 Summer Olympic Games
Ibtihaj Muhammad, a sabre fencer, won the bronze medal as part of Team USA in the Team Sabre during the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil. She became the first female Muslim-American athlete to earn a medal at the Olympics and also the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States in the Olympics.
Colin Kaepernick protest during the National Anthem
Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the national anthem before a 2016 preseason game against the San Diego Chargers. His act of protest to bring attention to violence against and oppression of people of color continued throughout the 2016 season.
Highly-decorated UC Davis gymnast Alexis Brown continues to use athletic platform to advocate for marginalized communities
Brown knelt during the national anthem at all of her gymnastics meets as a symbol of protest against police brutality and systemic racism. As an extension of her advocacy, Brown founded an African Diaspora Student Athlete Support Group. She recognized the need for a space on campus that allowed this minority group to discuss ideas, issues, share experiences and resources while also creating a larger sense of community on campus. Being so dominant in her sport, Brown says she was also acutely aware of the platform that she has to speak.
University of Michigan’s Brienne Minor becomes first African-American woman to claim the NCAA singles title
Minor (2016-19) became the first African-American woman to claim the NCAA tennis singles title, winning as a sophomore in 2017. She earned four All-America citations, the most by a Wolverine, and ranks seventh in program history with 110 singles victories. She was also the 2016-17 Michigan Female Athlete of the Year.
Police, firefighters and military join Cleveland Browns for National Anthem
Browns players ran out of the tunnel prior to their game against the Steelers accompanied by police, firefighters and EMTs. They also stood together during the playing of the national anthem, joined by ownership and team executives, and the Browns ran a video with the theme of unity prior to the anthem.
USC, UCLA, RISE & Athlete Ally Host Athlete Activism and the Fight for Equality
Professional athletes spoke with 140 USC and UCLA student-athletes about advocating for racial and LGBTQ equality and mobilizing the athletic community across various social justice movements. The panelists discussed issues of race, gender and sexuality across sports and encouraged student-athletes to use their platforms for good. After the panels, the student-athletes joined the panelists in breakout groups to discuss ways to unite activist athletes and best practices for using their platforms to advocate for issues of social inequality.
America East Conference schools gather for first time to talk inclusion
In October 2019, America East gathered 70 student-athlete and staff representatives from all nine of its schools at the University of Vermont for its first Spread Respect Forum. Under the stewardship of Amy Huchthausen, AE’s first female and Asian-American commissioner, the conference aimed to lean on experts who could catalyze honest conversations that might lead to changes on each of the conference’s campuses. Attendees returned to their respective campuses with action plans and recommendations.
NFL & Players Coalition launch Inspire Change Initiative
The National Football league announced the launch of the Inspire Change initiative which showcases the collaborative efforts of players, owners and the league to create positive change in communities across the country. Working together with the Players Coalition, NFL teams and the league office continue to support programs and initiatives that reduce barriers to opportunity, with a focus on three priority areas: education and economic advancement, police and community relations and criminal justice reform.
First Asian Player ranked #1 in Singles
Naomi Osaka becomes the first Asian player, male or female, to hold the top ranking in Singles after winning the Australian Open.
Kevin Warren named commisioner of the Big Ten Conference
Kevin Warren is the sixth commissioner to hold the position and the first African American to be named commissioner at one of Division I’s five largest conferences.
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Asian American athletes speak out on COVID-19 Racism
NBA legend Jeremy Lin, Los Angeles Rams safety Taylor Rapp, former All-American UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi and UCLA women’s basketball player Natalie Chou speak out about the racism and xenophobia occuring as the COVID-19 pandemic takes over the world.