The Student News Site of Appalachian State University

The Appalachian

The Student News Site of Appalachian State University

The Appalachian

The Student News Site of Appalachian State University

The Appalachian

Newsletter Signup

Get our news delivered straight to your inbox every week.

* indicates required

Conflicts of race and politics unite the sports world


The sports world has been brought to the center of attention once again over the last few weeks due to the renewed clash of sports and politics.

We have been here before though. Sports and politics have always been associated.

This issue of conflicts between sports, politics and race goes back to Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in 1947 when he became the first African American to play in the MLB.

Or when Muhammad Ali refused to be inducted into the army in 1967 and said, “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong.”

In 2013, the Miami Heat protested against the Trayvon Martin shooting. Billie Jean King created the first women’s players union in 1973.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the 1936 Berlin Olympics sporting events were more of a showcase for the supposed virtue of racial purity and nationalism. The events were more of a fight against Hitler with matchups of Germans vs. Americans.

If none of these barricades were broken, many of the social equalities that we have today wouldn’t exist.

Racism, white supremacy and inequality have been brought to the forefront once again as a result of the current nine-month tenure of President Donald Trump.

Racism has always existed. It did not begin when Trump became president or when Barack Obama became president. The focus has just been elevated due to the divisive dialect spoken by our president.

In 2016, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refocused the limelight back to the sports world when he kneeled weekly during the National Anthem. This led to many other NFL players kneeling and sparking debate between freedom of speech and respecting the American flag.

Kaepernick kneeled because of the police brutality taking place against African Americans such as Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and Keith Lamont Scott.

According to The Washington Post, Kaepernick comes from a white mother and a black father, and grew up in a religious family. It was Kaepernick’s faith that led him to become a civil activist and philanthropist.

Even while raising $2 million on GoFundMe for floods in Somalia, or $50,000 for Meals on Wheels with the help from Kaepernick, the protests led to Kaepernick being voted as the “most hated player” in the NFL. Now, Kaepernick is out of a job.

One can argue that Kaepernick is out of a job not because he is not a good quarterback, but because he was standing up for what is right.

Two weeks ago, ESPN anchor Jemele Hill spoke up about President Trump not condemning the Charlottesville riots and the white supremacists who played a part.

Almost immediately, the White House issued a statement saying that Hill should be fired for speaking out against Trump. Yes, Hill works for the sports industry, but she is also a black woman who has been discriminated against throughout her life.

All Hill was doing was using her First Amendment right of free speech. In some jobs, it would be wrong for Hill to speak up. But in sports, the impact an athlete or sports figure has is profound.

According to an ABC News study in 2016, there were 104 incidents of racism in sports internationally, and that’s only what is reported.

New York Giants player Nikita Whitlock has had his home robbed and vandalized, with threats spray painted on the walls, such as “KKK” and “Go back to Africa.”

Denver Broncos lineman Brandon Marshall protested the National Anthem and received hate mail that included the N-word and racial slurs according to that same source.

Discrimination is real.

A majority of sports are made up of black athletes. In a study by University of South Florida called The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports, 70 percent of NFL athletes, 75 percent of NBA players and over 50 percent of NCAA student-athletes in 2016 were African American.

Every one of these athletes has likely received discrimination because of their skin color in one way or another.

If not them, then their family members or friends do.

Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers said after the Panthers game Sunday that “Protesting wasn’t an attack on the military, it was protesting an attack the president made on my brothers.”

They have every right to protest the division taking place in our country.

When President Trump brought up NFL protests at a rally in Alabama on Friday, he called Kaepernick “a son of a bitch,” and said NFL owners should fire players for kneeling during the National Anthem.

Yes, the American flag is a monumental piece of our country, and people have died for the flag, but people have also died to give us the right to have freedom of speech and freedom to protest.

We have a president who can’t condemn white supremacy, but who can condemn black athletes for protesting about discrimination that themselves, friends, family and fans receive.

On Saturday, Trump tweeted that the Golden State Warriors were no longer invited to the White House for their championship celebration because star player Stephen Curry was hesitant to accept the invitation due to Trump’s views.

Outrage around the sports landscape was raised even more. Outspoken star players like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant and many others defended Curry and the Warriors. University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s basketball team even went on to cancel their visit in addition to this.

NFL teams owner and commissioner Roger Goodell began to speak out against Trump’s comments. On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans decided not to come out for the National Anthem. The Associated Press has counted at least 130 players who either sat or kneeled during the anthem before their games just through the 1 p.m. games.

Despite Trump’s comments, the sports world has once again brought unity.

Athletes are some of the most powerful figures in the world. Silence can sometimes be good, but when one athlete speaks out, it has proven to create a domino effect of positives in the political community. Just because they are athletes does not mean the community, or the president, can take away their right of standing up for what they believe in.

Whether it is the St. Louis Rams and NBA teams wearing shirts that said, “Hands up, don’t shoot!” in 2013, Venus and Serena Williams supporting women’s rights, athletes and teams coming together after 9/11 or the Boston Marathon Bombings, sports has changed the modern day world for the better.

Now, when we are in another rough time, athletes and teams have once again begun standing up for what they believe.

When a majority of athletes that we as fans watch on a daily basis are the ones who are or have been discriminated against, we have no right to question their choices.

It may seem like a mess now, but in one way or another, the sports world will once again come around and break a new barrier. That movement has already begun, and it must be supported.

Jason Huber is a senior journalism major from, Huntersville, North Carolina. Follow him on Twitter @_JasonHuber

Donate to The Appalachian
Our Goal

We hope you appreciate this article! Before you move on, our student staff wanted to ask if you would consider supporting The Appalachian's award-winning journalism. We are celebrating our 90th anniversary of The Appalachian in 2024!

We receive funding from the university, which helps us to compensate our students for the work they do for The Appalachian. However, the bulk of our operational expenses — from printing and website hosting to training and entering our work into competitions — is dependent upon advertising revenue and donations. We cannot exist without the financial and educational support of our fellow departments on campus, our local and regional businesses, and donations of money and time from alumni, parents, subscribers and friends.

Our journalism is produced to serve the public interest, both on campus and within the community. From anywhere in the world, readers can access our paywall-free journalism, through our website, through our email newsletter, and through our social media channels. Our supporters help to keep us editorially independent, user-friendly, and accessible to everyone.

If you can, please consider supporting us with a financial gift from $10. We appreciate your consideration and support of student journalism at Appalachian State University. If you prefer to make a tax-deductible donation, or if you would prefer to make a recurring monthly gift, please give to The Appalachian Student News Fund through the university here:

Donate to The Appalachian
Our Goal