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.
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
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 1963, 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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